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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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Judges Daniel G. Ríos, Jesse Contreras gearing up financially for top local race in Hidalgo County

Hidalgo County 449th District Court Judge Daniel G. Ríos of Edinburg, featured left in this file photo from last fall, has raised more than $67,000 in political contributions during the first six months of 2008, according to his campaign finance report filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. Ríos, former Edinburg city attorney, was appointed last November by Gov. Rick Perry to the local district court, which has jurisdiction over juvenile matters.  He joined his family to receive a House Concurrent Resolution, authored by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, which honored the memory of Dr. Luis M. Ríos, Sr., a renowned plastic surgeon and the patriarch of their family, for his many contributions to the region. Featured during this presentation were, from left: Dan Ríos; mother Mary Ann Ríos; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who sponsored the legislation; and Dr. Luis Ríos, Jr.  See lead story on Ríos/Contreras campaign finance report later in this posting.

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Jesús “Jesse” Contreras, featured left during a recent grand opening of his law office in Edinburg, is gearing up once again for a countywide campaign, this time against Republican Judge Daniel G. Ríos in the November 4 election. Contreras, a longtime Mercedes Municipal Court judge, defeated fellow Democrat Judge Maxine Longoria-Nash in the March 4 party party primary to face Ríos, who was appointed to the bench last fall by Gov. Rick Perry.  Contreras is featured here with law partner Sergio Muñoz at their local office. The 449th District Court focuses on legal cases involving juveniles. See lead story on  Ríos/Contreras campaign finance report later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Early Risers Lions Club has awarded Dr. Gary L. Ahlman, featured center, an Edinburg optometrist,  a certificate of appreciation for his many years of providing disadvantaged children with free eye exams and glasses. Ahlman has worked with Lions Clubs in Edinburg and the Hidalgo County Indigent Program to provide free eye exams and eyeglasses to children of families who are economically disadvantaged. Ahlman estimates he has helped provide free eyeglasses for over 5,000 Edinburg-area children. Featured with Ahlman are, to his left, Raúl M. Leal, secretary/treasurer for the Lions Club, and Joe Longoria, president for the Edinburg Early Risers Lions Club. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Leadership Edinburg Class is currently accepting applications for Class XX.  Leadership Edinburg is a growing organization that strives to encourage a better Edinburg through strong leadership skills focusing on politics, education, and quality of life.  There are more than 400 graduates who have taken the challenge and completed each program of work with pride and great accomplishment. Graduates of Leadership Edinburg typically continue to apply what they learned and demonstrate it by showing interest in community involvement including serving on committees and at times politics. Tuition is only $400 to participate and is due by August 29.  Applicants should make arrangements to sign up as soon as possible; as there are limited spaces are available.  The retreat will take place at South Padre Island, on September 12th & 13th at La Quinta.  For more information on Leadership Edinburg or to register please call Letty González at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956-383-4974. Featured from left are the 08-09 Leadership Edinburg Steering Committee: Cynthia Bocanegra, Pilar Corpus, Abel Leal, Naomi Peralez, Steve Crossland, Destiny Campos, Edna Peña, Jay Flores, Jerry Salazar, and  Pamela Dougherty.

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Judge Susan Criss raises $317,000 in her Democratic campaign for Texas Supreme Court, Place 8

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The University of Texas Board of Regents, the governing body for The University of Texas System, will hold their next regular meeting at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg on Wednesday, February 6 and Thursday, February 7. The regents, who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, wield tremendous influence over how and where the UT System’s $10.7 billion, two-year budget is spent. District Judge Susan Criss, D-Galveston, a candidate for Texas Supreme Court, has called on the UT System to bring a law school to the Rio Grande Valley, which is predominantly Hispanic. “Of the more than 77,000 lawyers in Texas, only 14 percent are from minority populations, according to a report produced last spring by the State Bar of Texas,” said Criss. “Yet more than 59 percent of Texas schoolchildren are considered to be from minority populations, and Mexican Americans make up one-third of our state’s population. We need to encourage more minority students to pursue careers in the law.” Featured in this group portrait taken in November are: standing from left: James D. Dannenbaum; Colleen McHugh; Robert A. Estrada; Paul Foster; John W. Barnhill, Jr.; Printice L. Gary; and student regent Randal Matthew Camarillo. Seated from left: Vice Chairman James R. Huffines; Chairman H. Scott Caven, Jr.; and Vice Chairman Robert B. Rowling. The UT Board of Regents is composed of nine members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Terms for regents are scheduled for six years each and staggered so that three members’ terms will usually expire on February 1 of odd-numbered years. In addition, the governor appoints a student regent for a one-year term that expires on May 31.

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Eddie Sáenz of Edinburg, featured right with La Joya Mayor Billy Leo, who has endorsed his bid for state representative, House District 40, continues to build momentum – and financial support – in his bid to unseat Rep. Aaron Peña in the March 4 Democratic Party primary. Sáenz has raised more than $140,000 between July and December 2007, according to his campaign finance report released on Tuesday, January 15. Sáenz’ report for the period ending December 31 shows that he has raised $140,835 since launching his campaign last September, with an average donation of $800 from 45 individual contributors and including a $105,000 loan from the candidate. See story featured later in this posting.

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Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, who is facing a challenge from Eddie Sáenz, also of Edinburg, in the March 4 Democratic Party primary, displays what he hopes is a good omen – a dice that he drew containing the number 1, which placed his name first on the election ballot for the House District 40 legislative district, which includes most of Edinburg. He was among dozens of elected officials, candidates, family members, and Democratic Party activists who showed up at the auditorium in the Hidalgo County Courthouse on Thursday, January 10, to draw for places on the ballot for contested state and local offices in Hidalgo County. “Local political lore maintains that the first poll position is to be desired and can be advantageous,” Peña said after the drawing. “I am not quite sure if this is true but most of the candidates in the room this night seem to share the belief that it does.” Also celebrating what they hope is a lucky pick by the local legislator were his daughter, Adrienne Peña Garza, and his son Aaron. A list of the contested races in Hidalgo County, with the order in which the names will appear on the ballot, is featured later in this posting.

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To help celebrate Fiesta Edinburg’s 40th Anniversary, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and Fiesta Edinburg is going “retro”. On Thursday, February 21, the community is invited to participate in Fiesta Hidalgo’s first Disco Dance Party to help kick off the annual event’s fourth decade. The festivities will be held in the Edinburg Activity Center, located on 123 Palm Drive. The Fiesta Edinburg Committee, featured in this promotional photograph, are hosting the Disco Dance Party, featuring the popular Deejay, “Johnny Joe”. The dance will take place from 7-11 p.m., and everyone is invited to come out and take part in reliving the 70’s. Attendees are encouraged to dress up in their flashy “retro” attire, as there will be a costume contest with $100 prize money, and $100 also will be awarded to the best dancer. The fee is $5 per person. For more information, contact the local chamber at 956-383-4974.

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Judge Criss, Rep. Peña, Rep. Flores draw top billing on Hidalgo County Democratic Party primary ballots

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Mrs. Dolia González, A Gold Star Mother whose late son, U.S. Marine Sgt. Alfredo “Freddy” González, is featured in this bronze bust in Edinburg, will be accepting the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor – the state’s highest recognition for valor – on his behalf at 2 p.m. on Monday, February 4 from Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, shown with Mrs. González several weeks ago, on Tuesday, January 8, announced the big event during a city council meeting. What is sure to be a major ceremony, probably to take place at Cats Stadium, will speak volumes about Edinburg’s native son and his mother and all of South Texas. “It will again send the message to the entire state and nation that Edinburg is the home to heroes,” said Mayor Pro Tem Alma A. Garza. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg principals of the elementary campuses that made the list of top campuses in the state by Texas Monthly magazine were honored recently by the Edinburg school board. This is the fourth year in a row that Texas Monthly has published a list of top public schools and the second consecutive year that they have ranked schools according to the number of subjects in which they continually excel, including reading, math, science, writing, and social studies. Elementary campuses making the prestigious list were Austin Elementary headed by Principal Homer Cano; Canterbury Elementary under Principal Dahlia Guzmán; De la Viña Elementary under Principal Erika Playle; Jefferson Elementary under Principal Ana Villalobos-Salinas; Lincoln Elementary under Principal Eva Sandoval; and Treviño Elementary under Principal Cynthia Sáenz. See story later in this posting.

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U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, featured in a file photo, pulled off a major victory on Tuesday, January 8, winning the New Hampshire Republican Party primary, received 37 percent of the GOP vote. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts placed second with 31 percent, while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had won several days earlier in the Iowa caucuses, came in third with 11 percent of the vote. “I hate to use the word kid, but I think we showed the people of this country what a real comeback looks like,” he told supporters of his long-shot win in a state he won eight years ago against then candidate George W. Bush.

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Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, in this campaign photo, won the New Hampshire Democratic Party primary against former Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, on Tuesday, January 8, less than a week after she placed a disappointing third in the Iowa caucuses. She received 39 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Obama in New Hampshire. Clinton’s victory speech is featured later in this posting.

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Handful of Edinburg residents address trustees on significant changes in length of terms, election date

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, on Tuesday, November 27, addressed several hundred supporters in McAllen during her campaign reelection bid kick-of. Gonzáles, whose House District 41 includes southwest Edinburg, is seeking a third two-year term. She is facing fellow McAllen attorney Javier Villalobos, who is seeking the Republican Party nomination for the legislative post. A complete story, along with a transcript of her speech, will be posted in next week’s edition of http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com

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Dan Ríos, featured left, has added to the honors bestowed upon his Edinburg family with his recent appointment by Gov. Rick Perry as the new judge of the 449th Judicial District Court in Edinburg. Ríos, who will be stepping down as city attorney for Edinburg, is shown here earlier this fall, along his his mother, Mary Ann, and brother, Luis, accepting a legislative proclamation, signed by Perry, from Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. House Concurrent Resolution 195, authored by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, and sponsored by Hinojosa, paid tribute to the late patriarch of the local family, Dr. Luis M. Ríos, Sr., a plastic surgeon who passed away last February. Dan Ríos succeeds Judge Maxine Longoria-Nash as judge of a district court that will focus on juvenile cases. Ríos, a Republican, may seek election to the bench in November 2008, otherwise his term will be up on December 31, 2008. If no other Republican files for his spot, he would face either Democrats Longoria-Nash or Jesse Contreras, who are seeking the Democratic Party primary nomination in March. The Rios family is not new to politics; Mary Ann Rios ran a closer-than-expected race in the 1990s as the Republican nominee against incumbent Rep. Eddie de La Garza. Dan Rios is expected to be sworn into office within two weeks. Featured in this portrait, from left, are Dan, Mary Ann, Hinojosa, and Luis Rios, Jr. See story later in this posting.

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South Texas College and area business leaders on Friday, November 16, gathered with community leaders from across the Rio Grande Valley to celebrate its new bachelor’s degree program – a rarity for community colleges nationwide. Featured in this portrait, posing with a framed copy of the state law that authorized the Bachelors of Applied Technology in Computer and Information Technologies are, from left: Irene García, chair of the STC Board of Trustees and mother-in-law to Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview; Reed; Robert W. Sheppard, chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Danny King; and Flores. See story later in this posting.

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