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In break from majority, Councilmember García rolled the dice and won big with President Obama

 

When then-Sen. Barack Obama came to the University of Texas-Pan American in late February, you could literally count on one hand the number of elected officials who endorsed the man who would be President – and three of them were from Edinburg. Edinburg Councilmember Gus García, Jr., featured here with his wife, Tonya, publicly supported Obama during his February 22 visit to the University of Texas-Pan American. Also endorsing Obama were Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, and Edinburg school board trustee Robert Peña, Jr.  The South Texas leaders astonished the Rio Grande Valley Democratic power brokers when they backed Obama against a hugely popular Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Almost a year later, their public support of Obama could help Edinburg and South Texas keep their presence and issues known to the newly-elected President, says the local councilmember. See lead story later in this posting. 

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Key legislators, featured in this file photo during the opening of South Texas College Technology Campus in McAllen in 2006, could soon be joining forces again to bring another higher education crown jewel to the Rio Grande Valley. Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview (third from left), says he is coordinating a public meeting with the City of McAllen, the University of Texas-Pan American, and South Texas College so McAllen officials, led by Mayor Richard Cortéz, may lay out their vision to bring graduate-level university courses to the City of Palms. "For some time now, the leadership of McAllen has been working on ways to continue bringing additional higher education opportunities for the people of South Texas," Flores said. "Under a state law I authored four years ago, the way has been paved for helping do just that." Joining the Palmview Democrat in this shot were, from left: Congressman Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin; Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Flores; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco; and Cortéz.  Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, carried the Flores legislation in the Senate. See story later in this posting. 

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The University of Texas-Pan American has now made it easier for students to transfer from a two-year college to the University through the help of the newly opened UTPA Transfer Center. A grand opening was held Tuesday, January 13 at the center, which is located at Pecan Boulevard and 29th Street in McAllen. “It is this sort of partnership and teamwork that will pay off ‘en grande’ for the students of STC and most importantly for the economy and prosperity of the Rio Grande Valley,” UTPA President Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas said. “It has become far more urgent that we make sure students have the information they need in order to make efficient decisions in their college pathway.” Featured at the ceremony, from left: Mike Allen, board of trustees, South Texas College;  Dr. Magdalena Hinojosa, UTPA associate vice president and dean of admissions and enrollment services; Dr. Paul Sale, UTPA provost and vice president; Cárdenas; Dr. Shirley Reed, STC president; Alejo Salinas, board of trustees, South Texas College; and Mike Pérez, McAllen city manager. See story later in this posting. 

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Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, featured right, will be in Weslaco on Thursday, January 22, as part of a major legislative tour coordinated by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, according to Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, featured left. Straus will be joined by dozens of other state lawmakers for the only scheduled visit into Hidalgo County, according to the tentative schedule that has been distributed to state senators and representatives by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. The speaker and the legislators will meet for a reception with mayors of Hidalgo County at 7 p.m. at the home of Patti and Larry Dittburner at 2912 S. International Boulevard, according to Peña. Later in the week, the legislative delegation will primarily visit key points in Cameron County. The Rio Grande Valley Partnership is hosting the tour for dozens of legislators from across the state from Thursday, January 22 through Sunday, January 25. "Joe Straus is a good friend and I congratulate him on his unanimous election as our new speaker," said Peña. "We have been able to succeed in the past because of our willingness to work with members on both sides of the aisle. In these dire economic circumstances and with our state facing a grim budget outlook it becomes so much more important to put aside partisanship and do what is best for the state of Texas. That is why I invited Speaker Straus to join our colleagues in a tour of the Rio Grande Valley." Featured, from left: Peña; Straus; Aaron Peña III; and Aaron Austin Peña. See story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, featured third from right, on Tuesday, January 13, was sworn in for another four-year term representing Senate District 21, which includes Starr County.  Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst presided during Opening Day Ceremonies, officially gaveling to order the 81st Texas Legislative Session. "I truly am delighted to renew my unwavering support for all families in our district," Zaffirini said. "I especially look forward to prioritizing education and health and human services and to ensuring the health and welfare of Texans, especially those whom I represent."  She returns as the highest-ranking senator for Bexar County and the border region. including Starr County. Featured, from left: Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte; Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston; and Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio. See story later in this posting.

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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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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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Councilmember García, Mayor Ochoa support plan for trailblazing medical conference center by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance

Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas, featured first row, second from left, on Thursday, November 20, outlined some of the key measures that she hopes to secure for the University of Texas-Pan American during the upcoming regular session of the Texas Legislature, which convenes on Tuesday, January 13.  Cárdenas, the first female president of UT-Pan American, made her presentation during a legislative luncheon at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center coordinated by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. She noted that graduates from UT-Pan American who apply to medical school have a higher acceptance rate than students from other Texas universities, a key point that will be used by area state lawmakers, who have pre-filed legislation to build a UT medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. In a related move, Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured to the left of Cárdenas, has pledged the city’s support for plans by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, which is considering building a cutting-edge medical conference center that would feature world-class medical professionals who would provide unprecedented seminars, including onsite surgeries, in the three-time All-America City. City Councilmember Agustín “Gus” García, Jr. (not included in this portrait) has been a key player in promoting Edinburg’s participation in the discussions about DHR’s medical conference center. “I do not want to identify just yet who the players are, but this project, if brought to fruition and marketed properly, could very well put Edinburg in a national spotlight,” Councilmember García said. “I have been assured by the investor group that with the city’s participation, they would name it the ‘Edinburg Medical Conference Center’.”  See lead story later in this posting.

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In a time of challenging national economic data, positive news was recently announced at the Edwards Abstract and Title Co.’s annual economic outlook symposium. “Jobs are everything to an economy, and Hidalgo County has delivered for more than a decade,” said Ted C. Jones, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Economist for Stewart Title Guaranty Company. “Hidalgo County and the cities therein have grown jobs at 4.5 times the rate of the U.S. per year, compounded annually for the past 10 years,” added Jones. “In the latest twelve months ending September 6, nine hundred net new additional jobs were created in the local economy.” Another highlight of the forum was the participation of a panel of economic development experts from the cities of McAllen, Edinburg and Weslaco who shared their views regarding the factors that are contributing to the continued commercial and industrial growth of the region. Participating in the economic development panel were, first row, from left:  Dr. Ted C. Jones;  Elva Jackson Garza, Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; Ramiro Garza, executive director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Byron Jay Lewis, president of Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; Stewart Morris, Sr. with Stewart Title Guaranty Company. Back row, from left: (back) Stewart Morris, Jr. with Stewart Title Guaranty Company; Keith Patridge, President and CEO, McAllen Economic Development Corporation; Pat Townsend, Jr., President and CEO, Mission Economic Development Authority; and Hernán González, Executive Director of the Weslaco Economic Development Corporation. See story later in this posting.

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Young ladies who are seniors at Edinburg High School were recently addressed by prominent Texans during the Young Women’s Summit, a forum which allows the students to interact with some of the most successful women in their respective fields. The Young Women’s Summit developed from research completed by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) which found that Hispanic girls are the most under- represented group of post-secondary graduates. Featured, from left: Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Gloria Cotton Wells; Deann Craft; María Piña; and Jennifer Ruiz, Miss Galaxy International 2009.

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Miss Edinburg 2009 and her counterparts were recently honored by the Edinburg school district for their outstanding efforts in representing the city and school district, and for bringing honor to their respective families. Featured in this portrait during a recent school board public session were, from left: Gilberto Garza, Jr., superintendent of the Edinburg school district; Alexis García, Miss Edinburg 2009; Avery García, Miss Pre-Teen; Anahi García, Little Miss Edinburg; Rachel Tgunberg, Junior Miss Edinburg; and Omar Palacios, president of the Edinburg school board.

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G&C Avanti Trucking LLC in Edinburg is partnering with South Texas College on an experimental project that calls for students in the Precision Manufacturing Technology Program to help fabricate prototypes of several automotive parts that will enable vehicles, such as this GMC 5500 truck, to travel in up to five feet of water. Pictured are (front row, l-r): Chente Aguilar from G&C Avanti Trucking LLC; Leticia Reyes from the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Mario Reyna, STC division dean of business and technology; Efrain García, Jr.; Efrain García, Sr.; Rodolfo Sánchez from G&C Avanti Trucking LLC; Alberto Díaz from Santos International; and G&C Avanti technician Marcelo Cantú. STC Precision Manufacturing Technology instructor Harold Bernard and PMT students Zeke Sáenz, Erick Vega, Ricardo García and René Vera are pictured on top of truck. See story later in this posting.

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Women’s Business Center empowering residents with knowledge, contacts, and vision to succeed

In the United States, there are more than 10 million businesses — with 50 percent or more of those firms owned by women – that employ 13 million people and generate nearly $2 trillion in annual revenues, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research in Washington, D.C. In South Texas, the Women’s Business Center (WBC) – headquartered on the third floor of the Wells Fargo Bank, 2852 W. Trenton Road, on the corner of Trenton and McColl roads in Edinburg – is playing a major role in helping ensure that Rio Grande Valley residents are also part of that growing national trend. “The Women’s Business Center is focused on providing services to area women who want to learn more about how to start or expand their companies,” said María “Charo” Mann, the WBC’s chief executive officer. “We feature, free-of-charge, a dedicated staff which can help guide people from all walks of life to their goals. Plus, we offer seminars, presentations, and other special events – often at no charge  – that provide South Texans with direct contact to other professionals who are experts in what it takes to start and expand a successful business.” The local Women’s Business Center has launched an Internet website at http://www.wbc-rgv.org to provide more information to South Texans, or may also be contacted at 618-2828. See lead story later in this posting.

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In today’s world where tons of trash is discarded daily, Edwards Abstract and Title Co. has taken a proactive step to protect the environment and promote recycling in Edinburg. They are among of handful of test sites within the Edinburg business community working with the Edinburg Recycling and Education Center to promote efforts to recycle without the fear of contamination, and at the same time reducing waste to preserve natural resources. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average office worker in the U.S. uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year, equaling to four million tons of copy paper. Recycling one ton of paper saves enough energy to power the average American home for six months, saves 7,000 gallons of water, 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent. The City of Edinburg Recycling Center staff delivered the Clearstream containers to Edwards Abstract and Title Co. branch office located at 3111 W. Freddy González Drive. Featured from left: Mark Peña; Armando Mayorga, Edinburg Recycling Center; Vinnie García; Janie Chapa, Edinburg Recycling Center; Dolly Villarreal; Nancy Lemke; Nora Cano; Susie Mercado; Diana Kaufold; Angela García; and Libby Luis. See story later in this posting.

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The 2008 winners of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2nd Annual Medical Awards Banquet, held on Saturday, November 15, at the Embassy Suites in McAllen, included two Edinburg physicians: Dr. Ben Garza, a family practice doctor, and Dr. Carlos Manrique, an ophthalmologist. The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Filiberto Rodríguez, the first heart surgeon in the Valley. Rodríguez spoke on the positive changes of the medical care in the Valley going back to 1983, when he first arrived. Now, there are so many specialized doctors in the area that residents don’t have to go out of the Valley to seek medical attention or surgery. The event was sponsored by Aetna Insurance, New York Life/Armando Brennan, Manrique Custom Vision Center, Texas HealthSpring, BVAA Compass, Apex, South Texas Health System, IKON and Humana.  Entries were submitted for judging to a committee of medical professionals in Austin. In addition to the two local doctors, other health professionals were recognized for their contributions. From left: Gilda Romero, Hospital Administrator of the McAllen Heart Hospital, Hospital of the Year; Hari Namboodiri, Administrator of Las Palmas Health Care Center, Nursing Home of the Year; Dr. Ben Garza, General Physician of the Year; Jean Calvert of South Texas Behavioral Center, Nurse of the Year; Rose Ramírez, MHCC Vice Chair of Health Issues; Dr. Carlos Manrique of Manrique Custom Vision Center, Specialty Physician of the Year, and Orlando Velásquez, Physician Assistant with Dr. Enrique Griego as Physician Assistant of the Year.

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