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Work underway on landmark history book: McAllen’s First 100 Years – Leading the Way

Prayers in South Texas were answered on June 30, when Hurricane Alex, shown here a day  earlier as an approaching tropical storm, was making a predicted path to the Valley. But the powerful eye of the soon-to-be Category 2 hurricane moved westward instead, striking northeastern Mexico with heavy rain and powerful winds of more than 100 miles per hour. Although deep South Texas was spared a dreaded repeat of Hurricane Dolly in 2008 – where damages exceeded $1 billion – the northern section of Hurricane Alex still managed to dump

up to a foot of rain in key areas of the Valley, causing flooding problems, shutting down businesses, and related concerns. Hurricane Alex was the first tropical cyclone to form in the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, which is expected to be one of the more active hurricane seasons in recent years. The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t end until November 30. 

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As day breaks over the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, June 29, an opening in the clouds of Hurricane Alex allows the Hurricane Hunter aircrew aboard a WC-130J Hercules a brief glimpse of the water surface. The powerful storm, the strongest June hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 1966, came ashore late that evening on an unpopulated stretch of coast in northern Mexico about 110 miles south of Brownsville. Alex reached Category 2 classification on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale with sustained winds of 105 miles per hour, and spawned tornadoes in southern Texas. See story later in this posting.  

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After recovering from a hard weekend of activities and "Honey Do’s", mark your calendar to do some fun business networking at the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Manic Monday Mixer to be held on Monday, July 12 at Pepper’s at Uptown, 4620 N. 10th, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Special drink prices will be offered as well as some appetizers. Come and meet MHCC members and learn how the Hispanic Chamber has been recognized as the Top Small Chamber of Texas as well as the nation. The MHCC’s focus on small business has been recognized throughout the country as well as their work on education, health, women’s issues and government issues. Bring plenty of business cards to exchange with your new contacts.  Door prizes will also be given. Featured making plans for the July 6 mixer are, from left: Hari Namboodiri, a member of the MHCC Advisory Board; Oneida López, chef; Fernando Niño, general manager; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, MHCC president and CEO, and Giselle Mascarenhas-González, general manager. 

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Samuel García, a rising junior at Sharyland High School in Mission, poses with Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, during a recent visit to Cuellar’s office in Washington, D.C. García is in Washington, D.C. through July 11 as part of the Georgetown University Junior Statesmen Summer School program, a student-run organization aimed at increasing civil engagement and fighting apathy among young people. The summer program is sponsored by The Junior Statesmen Foundation and allows students to take college level courses while still in high school as well as having the opportunity to tour Capitol Hill, the CIA, and the Pentagon. 

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South Texas and McAllen leaders gathered on October 21, 2003 for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Alfredo González Texas Veterans Home in the City of Palms, one of the most highly-sought state facilities in Texas that year. Bringing the $13 million, 160-bed veterans nursing complex was one of the major milestones that year for McAllen, and that success has become part of the community’s many milestones as it approaches its 100th anniversary next February. Work is already well underway to capture – in printed words and photographic images – that event and other major highlights of what has become one of the most influential and highly-regarded cities along the U.S.-Mexico border. "The McAllen Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with McAllen Centennial Publications, is publishing a beautiful, professionally produced, hard-covered keepsake historical book on McAllen’s first 100 years," reports Eileen Mattie, a prolific South Texas writer who will be the author of the landmark publication, McAllen’s First 100 Years – Leading the Way. Among the city’s elected leadership featured in this 2003 photograph are, from left: McAllen City Commissioner Ric Godínez; Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen; McAllen Mayor Leo Montalvo; Congressman Eligio "Kika" De la Garza, D-Mission; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview; Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen; and McAllen City Commissioner Jan Klinck. See lead story in this posting. 

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Dozens of area leaders receive education on how to apply for $45 million in grants

State and local leaders met in Edinburg on Wednesday, August 27, as part of a two-hour session sponsored by the Texas Valley Communities Foundation to help area nonprofit groups apply for $45 million in AmeriCorps grants that will be awarded in Texas during the next three years. Featured, from left: Dr. Roland S. Arriola, Ph.D., president of Texas Valley Communities Foundation; Rosa Moreno-Mahoney, Associate Director of Service and Volunteerism for the One Star Foundation; Dr. Beverly Ashley-Fridie, Ph.D., a gubernatorial appointee from Edinburg who serves on the board of directors for the One Star Foundation; and Courtney Suhrs, Senior Strategic Communications Specialist for the One Star Foundation. “One Star Foundation is looking for partners to invest an anticipated $45 million in grant funding to support programs for the educational success of Texas’ youth over a three year period through AmeriCorps funding,” said Arriola. “One Star will partner with organizations that focus on quality early childhood education, school-readiness programs, improving literacy rates, increasing the obtainment of high school equivalencies, increasing grade level achievement, and increasing post-secondary attendance and completion.”  See story later in this posting.

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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa was the special speaker on Thursday, August 21 for the legislative luncheon hosted by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce’s Public Affairs Committee, led by Ramiro Garza, executive director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. Hinojosa talked about recent legislative issues, including education priorities, that will emphasize financial literacy, encourage financial partners in student loan programs, increasing need-based grant aid through Pell grants, and other measures. Sponsors for the event were Rio Valley Realty, and Edwards Abstract and Title Co.  Featured, back row, from left: Johnny Rodríguez; Hayden Prater; Flo Prater; Jared Prater; Elva Jackson Garza; Marty Martin, and Imelda.  Front row, from left: Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Mayor Joe Ochoa;Hinojosa; Byron J. Lewis; and Maggie Kent.

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The Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department will collaborate with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, and the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library in celebrating Edinburg’s Centennial on Monday, October 6, at the Edinburg Municipal Park. As part of its participating, the fire department will host National Fire Department Week, and provide – for free – live entertainment, music, dancers, a karate show and demo, fire safety, cokes and hot dogs, as well  ice cream, courtesy of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce,  and Edinburg’s biggest birthday cake, courtesy of the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library.  The event will be from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., with a Fire Prevention/Caravan/Parade to kick off the celebration at 5:30 p.m.  The fire department will also work in partnership with the Museum of South Texas History, on Sunday, October 5, and kick off the week with “Museum Day”.  Residents will be welcomed to visit the Museum of South Texas History on McIntyre and Closner, and then walk one block west to the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department Museum located on McIntyre and 10th street.  Both museums will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with free admission. Featured, from left, are: Fire Marshal Richard Drewery; Centennial Chair Evana Vleck; Library Director Letty Leija; Lucy Robinson; Fire Chief Shawn M. Snyder; Fire Inspector John R. Ovalle; and Assistant Fire Marshal Omar Garza.

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Dust off those boots and sharpen your casino skills as the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has scheduled their 2nd annual “Back to School Casino and Dance Scholarship Fundraiser” for Saturday, September 6, at The Tower Club, located in the Chase Tower, 200 South 10th Street in McAllen. The event is from 7 p.m. to midnight, with Country Western band Crossfire performing, food and refreshments, and a Casino with Black Jack tables, Craps, Roulette and Poker.  Local merchants are also providing gifts and certificates for the silent auction. MHCC’s Education Committee schedules several fundraisers during the year to help raise funds for scholarships.  Sponsorships for the Back to School Casino and Dance are: Title $5,000, High Roller $3,000, Dealer $2,000, Bookie $1,000 and Casino Table $300.  Reserved Tables are $750 for a table of 10 with individual tickets $50. For more information, to inquire on sponsorships and tickets call the McAllen Hispanic Chamber at 928-0060. Featured, sitting: Diana Gonzáles, Vice Chair of Education. Standing, from left: Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, MHCC President/CEO; Hari Namboodiri, Chair-elect, and Verónica Vela, Vice Chair of Women’s Issues.

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Edinburg rode out Hurricane Dolly in good shape, based on first reports, says Mayor Ochoa

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Crispin Fuente, store manager for JC Penny in Edinburg, participates in the ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, August 1, as Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured to Fuentes’ left, helps steady the ribbon. Almost a year to the day after groundbreaking was held for The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, the 103,000-square-foot JC Penney officially became the first retail center to open its doors at the planned 1.1 million square-foot retail, entertainment, and hotel complex, located on the northwest corner of U. S. Highway 281 and Trenton Road. The 80-store complex on 130 acres will provide one of the most unique shopping experiences in Texas. Following JC Penney will be the opening of Burlington Coat Factory in mid-August. TJ Maxx, The Shoe Department, and Academy Sports will open in the fall of this year, in time for the holiday season. More store openings will follow into next year with the addition of Lane Bryant, Ross Dress for Less and First National Bank during the early part of 2009. In addition to the mayor, other elected leaders at the ribbon-cutting included Councilmember Alma A. Garza, Councilmember Noé Garza, Elias Longoria, Jr., a member of the board of directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, Edinburg school board trustee Ciro Treviño, and Hidalgo County Tax Assessor-Collector Armando Barrera.  See story later in this posting.

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Former Edinburg Mayor Richard García, on behalf of himself and his law firm, García, Quintanilla and Palacios, has donated $10,000 to an annual fundraiser drive designed to help young people served by the Edinburg Boys & Girls Club RGV. In doing so, he issued a challenge to those in the legal community to match the gift, which was donated to the "It Just Takes One Campaign" now underway.  The campaign will raise funds for the Clubs’ after-school programs and services for youth, ages 6-18, living in Edinburg and surrounding communities. Scheduled to run through August 15, the campaign seeks donations primarily from individuals. García said he and his law partners, including Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Toribio "Terry" Palacios and C.J. Quintanilla, have previously donated money to the Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg RGV. "The community needs to see the importance of the Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg, to see that there are people contributing," García said. "Edinburg has been very good to me over the years, and I figure one of the best ways I can give back to my community is to help our children." See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, featured right, shares a laugh with Dr. Carlos Mohamed, M.D, featured left, and other Houston lawmakers during a Thursday, July 10 visit to Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, which has a state-of-the-art cancer treatment center as part of its medical complex. Cohen, a 38-year breast cancer survivor, was the first House sponsor of Proposition 15. Last November, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment which will fund $3 billion in cancer research grants to conduct research to prevent or cure cancer, support existing research efforts in Texas, and implement the Texas Cancer Plan, a statewide blueprint for cancer prevention and control. A few days after her visit to Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Cohen was a keynote speaker at “The American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer: Coming Together 2008 – A National Forum on Cancer Care in the United States” held July 14 – 15 in Baltimore, Maryland.  Featured in this photograph at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance were, from left: Mohamed, who is an obstetrician and gynocologist; Prisylla Jasso, director of the Border Health PAC, which represents Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Rep. Alma Allen, Ph.D., and Cohen.  See story on Cohen later in this posting.

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Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced on Friday, August 9, that the 10th annual sales tax holiday will take place Friday-Sunday, August 15-17. The tax holiday will provide Texas families with much needed back-to-school savings, and, for the first time, school backpacks and messenger bags costing less than $100 also will be tax exempt. "Family budgets are stretched farther than ever, especially with the high price of gasoline, groceries and other necessities,"  Zaffirini said. "I am pleased that even more items qualify for tax-free status this year so that families may enjoy greater savings." Most children’s and adult’s clothing and shoes priced less than $100 can be purchased tax-free during the holiday. A complete list of items that will be tax exempt during the sales tax holiday is available at http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxpubs/tx98_490/tx98_490.html. Since 1999 the clothing sales tax holiday has saved shoppers more than $388 million in state and local sales taxes. Zaffirini voted to expand tax holiday laws during the 2007 legislative session. Caption by Sarah Rayburn.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Champion Committee recently announced that 10 new members have joined the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Some businesses are new to the Edinburg area, while others are existing, and all help in sustaining Edinburg’s economy.  New members are as follows: Law Offices of Contreras & Muñoz;Molduflex; Wolfy’s Wine & Liquor; Elite Rehab Service LLC; State Farm Insurance; Boys & Girls Club of Edinburg; Hacienda Ford; Copy Plus; Monte Cristo Pharmacy; and The Brass Chair Barbershop. Featured in this photograph, taken at Monster Carwash, include, back row, from left:  Aaron Ramírez, Dr. Walt Greene, Roy Peña, Gary Myers, Dina Araguz, Marty Martin, María Martínez, Joel Porras, and Imelda Rodríguez. Front row, from left:  Frank Lara, Óscar Hinojosa, Joe Sánchez, Celine Schulz, Elva Jackson Garza, Flo Prater, and Jay Flores.

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Public hearings on Hidalgo County Loop, including Edinburg session, rescheduled to August 5, 6, 7, 12, and 13

The State of Texas on Saturday, August 2, approved aerial spraying for the counties of Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties, Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, has announced. At the request of the local counties and municipalities, the Texas Department of State Health Services has contracted with Chicago-based Clarke Mosquito Control to conduct the aerial sprays, which could start as early as Sunday night, August 3, but will begin no later than Monday night, August 4, weather-permitting. “Our residents will feel relief soon,” said Salinas. “The state of Texas and our state delegation, especially Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), have been extremely responsive. My hat is off to them. Now it’s time to pull out the big guns in our war on mosquitoes. My message to them is buzz off now or you’ll be sorry.” See story later in this posting.

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Hurricane Dolly is featured in this NASA image as i t hits the Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday, July 23, as a Category 2 hurricane, with sustained winds reported at about 100 mph near the coast – and at about 70 miles per hour in Edinburg. Although many in Edinburg were spared misery and suffering, other portions of South Texas, including thousands of fellow Hidalgo County residents, were hit hard by power outages, wind damage, and especially flooding. On Friday, August 1, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, announced that disaster assistance is now available to individuals who qualify under guidelines established by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). For those with speech or hearing impairment: TTY 1-800-462-7585. Individuals may also apply by going online at: http://WWW.FEMA.GOV. Disaster assistance available from FEMA includes: housing needs; other than housing needs; and other additional services. Individuals will need to have the following information available when contacting FEMA: A phone number where you can be reached; social security number; current mailing address; address of the affected property; brief description of the damages; and insurance information, including policy number. “I encourage all Rio Grande Valley residents who have been impacted by Hurricane Dolly to contact FEMA and see if they qualify for disaster assistance,” Martínez said. “With FEMA, individuals may be able to find get the assistance necessary to help them back onto their feet.”

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Coastlines can either evolve slowly, as a beach builds or erodes wave by wave, or they can change all at once in one mighty storm. Barrier islands are particularly prone to sudden change because they take the brunt of severe storms. Even the relatively mild Hurricane Dolly, which came ashore on July 23 as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of about 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour), brought noticeable changes to the Texas coastline. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured the top image on July 26, immediately after Dolly moved out of the region. The image shows changes to both South Padre Island and the Texas shoreline. The image was made with a combination of visible and infrared light to highlight the presence of water on the ground. The plant-covered land is green, while sparsely vegetated areas are tan. Water is dark blue to black, and clouds are turquoise blue and white. South Padre Island appears to be painted with a film of pale blue in the this image. The color is from water-soaked sand. A closer look reveals more significant changes. The shape of the inland side of the island has changed. The Laguna Madre appears to have swollen, covering much of the western shore of South Padre Island. Just below the center of the image, a square-shaped section of the island is gone. The Texas coastline also changed. A thin line of land that ran through the Laguna M adre in an image taken several days earlier is missing in the July 26 image. Water intrudes into shore where low-lying coastal regions have flooded. The waters of the Laguna itself are bright blue. Soil and sand that washed into the Laguna from the storm and floods reflect light back into space, and this colors the water lighter blue. Dolly’s heavy rains also caused inland flooding on both sides of the border between the United States and Mexico. Rivers and streams too small to be visible prior to Dolly’s arrival stood out as a network of blue on July 26. NASA images courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

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As part of its response, the Hidalgo County government has established a hurricane hotline to assist any resident, according to Cari Lambrecht, public information officer for the county judge and county commissioners court.  The telephone number, which will remain active through August 8, is (956) 318-2903.  Residents will be able to reach operators, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., who will help residents with questions about debris removal, health concerns, assistance and flooding issues.  “We are working to make sure our residents’ questions are answered,” said Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III, featured here with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, following a Thursday, July 24 press conference in McAllen. “All of us need to be on the same page so we can help each other through this difficult time.”

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Potential litigation involving the ongoing construction of the new Edinburg City Hall, featured here with a portion of its west facade, is set for consideration on Tuesday, August 5, in executive session by the Edinburg City Council. No other details were released in the August 1 posting of the city council’s agenda. Also behind closed doors, city leaders will take up the issue of what to do about hiring a permanent city attorney. Seven area firms, including the current interim city attorney, have submitted their credentials for the post, and their proposed fees range from $150 per hour to $20,000 per month. The city has retained an interim city attorney since January, following the resignation of then-city attorney Daniel G. R=C 3os in December, who was required to vacate his post after being appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to serve as the presiding judge of Hidalgo County’s 449th District Court. Ríos, a Republican, is facing Jesse Contreras, a Democrat and longtime Mercedes Municipal Court Judge, in the November general elections.

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