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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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Edinburg school board, citizens panel begin joint work on $150 million bonds

The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the City of Edinburg and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation have congratulated Memorial Funeral Home for their recent contribution to the 3rd Annual Texas Cook ‘Em: High Steaks in Edinburg.  Memorial Funeral Home will sponsor Edinburg’s Very Important Party (VIP) on Friday, July 4 at the Edinburg Municipal Park, located on 714 Raúl Longoria. The party kicks off at 6 p.m., and all competing cooks are automatically entered to participate and compete for the “Party of the Year” banner. Also featured at the Texas Cook ‘Em on July 4 will be John Conlee plus the Valley’s own Texas Heat. Doors open at 10:30 a.m., and admission is free with payment of a $5 parking fee per vehicle. The Texas Cook ‘Em is sanctioned by the International Barbeque Cookers Association (IBCA) and sponsored by Inter National Bank, The Edinburg Review, The Monitor, and H-E-B.  To participate log on to http://www.Edinburg.com.

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During the 19th annual Valley Proud Honors Banquet, which recognizes the top two graduates of every high school in the region, Mr. Bill Summers, president/CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, jokes that everyone can show thanks to H-E-B, the event sponsor, by buying bread there.  Watching on from far left that evening are Mr. and Mrs. Armando Sánchez with H-E-B; Mr. Bill Card, III, chairman of the Partnership board of directors; Mrs. Jo Summers; Ms. Marcy Martínez with KGBT Action 4 News; and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, who was the keynote speaker.

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Staff members from the office of the Texas Comptroller visited South Texas College’s Technology Campus on Wednesday, June 11 to learn about the college’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and the training it offers to support the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research & Education’s (NAAMREI) Wired Grant Initiative. Karen Hudgins and Karl Wolfson, writers for the comptroller’s newsletter, comptroller photographer Barbara Schlief and KVNO videographer Don Ramírez were given a presentation by STC regional manager Carlos Margo and met with other STC staffers. They discussed the college’s work with local manufacturing companies to train new and existing employees to meet the challenging demands of the manufacturing sector. The comptroller’s four-member team will use the knowledge and materials gained during their visit to shed light on the important role that South Texas College is playing in the long-term vision of NAAMREI to develop a sustainable advanced manufacturing sector in the Rio South Texas Region. For more information about NAAMREI visit http://www.naamrei.org.  Featured from left are Margo, Schlief,  Ramirez, STC training specialist Ron Merrill, Karen Hudgins, Karl Wolfson, and Keith Partridge,  president and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation.

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Dr. Francisco Guajardo. featured here during a recent meeting of the Edinburg school board, is the chairman of the Bond Oversight Committee, a citizens advisory panel which is working with trustees and top administrators on the best ways to implement the construction plans for new campuses authorized by the May 10 passage of almost $112 million in bonds. On Tuesday, June 10, he gave an update to the community. Trustee Carmen González also provides her views on how the school board is approaching the major school construction projects that will be made possible by the bond issuance. Stories on González  and Guajardo are featured later in this posting.
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Garza reelected in match with Rodríguez, Espinoza survives challenge by Guerrero; $150 million school construction bond propositions widely approved

The first historical marker on The University of Texas-Pan American grounds was unveiled April 26 honoring Emilia Schunior Ramírez (1902 – 1960) a South Texas educator with deep roots in Edinburg. More than 40 community members, family and friends attended the celebration commemorating her life. The marker site was erected near Emilia Schunior Ramírez hall, located off of Sugar Road in Edinburg, which is named after Ramírez and once served as a women’s dormitory. Pictured at the unveiling of the Hidalgo County historical marker honoring Emilia Schunior Ramírez are her children, along with their families, who came to the event at the UTPA campus. “This is a joyous occasion for the University as we not only celebrate our first historical marker on campus, but also honor the extraordinary life of Emilia Schunior Ramírez, a world-class educator, who made an impact on many lives in South Texas,” UTPA President Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas said. Emilia’s eldest son, Alfonso Ramírez, who was Edinburg’s first Hispanic mayor in the 1950s said his mother was a learner and spent most of her time continuing her education, See story later in this posting.

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McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz, featured left, on April 30 welcomed Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland, at a major fundraiser in Pharr for the Hidalgo County Republican Party. Cortéz, who presented Craddick with a token of appreciation from McAllen for Craddick’s work on behalf of South Texas College, continues to build his relationships with the top legislative leadership in Austin, which will be considering the legislative priorities from the McAllen City Commission beginning in January 2009. One of those efforts may include a plan to bring a University of Texas-Pan American facility into McAllen. Cortéz hopes that his city, local legislators, and the UT System can work out a deal with the Texas Legislature to build a state-of-the-art planetarium, known as a digital dome theatre, in the City of Palms. The idea has been in the development stage for about a year, said Cortéz, who wants the UTPA high-technology component to be one of the focal points of an even more ambitious goal – the creation of a high-end retail, entertainment, and housing district – known as “Central Park” – to be built near La Plaza Mall. The value of such a facility would extend beyond tourism dollars, Cortéz contends – it would inspire thousands of Valley students to seek education and careers in science, engineering, and technology. See related story.

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President George W. Bush signs H.R. 5715 into law on Wednesday, May 7, 2008, during a ceremony in the Oval Office. The bill, “Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008,” is designed to provide continued availability of access to the Federal student loan program for students and families. Looking on are, from left: Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Congressman George Miller, D-San Francisco; Congressman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, California; Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming; Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson; Congressman Ric Keller, R-Orlando, Florida; and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. See story later in this posting.

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El legado familiar del juez Susan Criss incluye abolir “esclavitud” de trabajadores agrícola

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Eddie Sáenz of Edinburg addresses several hundred voters on Thursday, October 25, during his campaign kick-off for state representative, House District 40, which includes all but southwest Edinburg, La Joya and Sullivan City in western Hidalgo County, Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, and San Carlos in eastern Hidalgo County, and northern Hidalgo County. Sáenz, a Democrat, is portraying incumbent Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, as loyal to the Republican Party, criticizing Peña for helping keep a Republican in power as Texas Speaker of the House. “Our great state senators and South Texas representatives need a partner working with them in Austin. We need to elect a Speaker who is for everyone,” Sáenz said. “That is why I am committing to stand with the Democratic Caucus, and support a Democrat for Speaker that we can all stand behind.” See story later in this posting.

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Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) President Chris McGill and CLEAT Political Director Charley Wilkison presented Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, featured right, with the Senator of the Year 2007 award at CLEATS 31st annual convention held October 6 in Brownsville. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Lucio pushed for an increase of $369.4 million in funds for the incarceration and treatment of adult felons. He also helped secure $108 million for border security operations, including funding for local law enforcement surge operations, joint operation and intelligence centers, a border security operation center, additional Department of Public Safety troopers and more aviation support. See story later in this posting.

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A portion of the program cover for the November 15 Tejano Walk of Fame scholarship fundraiser provides a colorful preview for the event, to be hosted by The Social Club, an upscale restaurant located at 205 Conquest Boulevard in Edinburg. Hundreds of fans of the latest inductees of the Tejano Walk of Fame will be able to see their favorite musicians – at no charge – during the public portion of the popular event, which will be held outside The Social Club from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. See story later in this posting.

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An exhibit titled “Pillars of Success” featuring the photos and success stories of five distinguished alumni of The University of Texas-Pan American opened at the University’s Visitors Center on October 11. Pictured from left are new UTPA “Pillars of Success” honorees Arturo E. Guerra Jr., Roberto Pulido, Dr. Marla M. Guerra, and Lucious “Luke” Jackson Jr. Not pictured is Major General William F. Garrison, who was unable to attend the Pillars exhibit opening. See story later in this posting.

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Hidalgo County RMA stresses it wants local firms, workers to benefit from new $643 million road contract

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Healthcare, workforce and education, transportation, immigration and border security issues crucial to all Texans – and representing hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds for more than two million residents – were successfully championed during the 2007 state legislative session by the Texas Border Coalition. Featured following TBC’s August 2 meeting in Brownsville are, from left, are the following TBC leaders: Blas Castañeda, chief development officer of Laredo Community College; Wanda Garza, executive officer for workforce development and external affairs for South Texas College; TBC chairman and Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster; and Eddie Aldrete, senior vice president for International Bancshares Corp. (IBC). See story later in this posting.

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Gerry E. Pate, P.E., managing partner for Hidalgo County Road Builders, outlines his vision for improving Hidalgo County’s major roadway system during the August 9 meeting of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority. The RMA selected Hidalgo County Road Builders as the agent in charge of developing and designing an estimated $643 million highway loop for southern Hidalgo County. See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, (featured left), on August 1 received the 2007 Texas Affiliation of Affordable Housing Providers Award from Executive Director Jim Brown for his work in providing affordable housing to Texans during the organization’s Texas Housing Conference in Austin. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce was recognized as the 1st place winner in their division at the TCCE State conference held in July in Temple, Texas. Evana Vleck has been employed with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce for a year and a half, and since then has produced 8 Newsletters. Each bi-monthly publication focuses on Edinburg Chamber events or accomplishments, and is filled with community news covering the chamber, the city of Edinburg, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, local organizations, local business, and more. Vleck says “I feel that we have a down to earth approach with our Newsletter; we concentrate on stories that will reach the attention of businesses, but more overly reach the vast community; we cover expos, chamber nominees, special events, meetings and more. It’s a pleasure writing for Edinburg, and I feel honored to receive recognition for the chamber’s newsletter.” The Depot Express offers unique advertising opportunities that reach all Edinburg Chamber of Commerce members. For more information on the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, or to advertise in the Depot Express please contact Evana Vleck at 956-383-4974.

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Relocation of key Hidalgo County office to the “Old K-Mart building,” located at 2802 S. Business Hwy 281 (corner of Canton and Business 281), has already begun. On Thursday, August 9, Tax Assessor-Collector Armando Barrera saw his first customer, Julie Kracht, who said she once shopped at the old K-Mart building. It was interesting to see it renovated into the new Hidalgo County Administration Offices, she told Barrera. See story later in this posting.

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