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Texas juveniles facing drug charges could receive more help through legislation by Rep. Canales

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Featured, from left: Edinburg City Councilmember Richard Molina and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

Texas juveniles who are placed by a court on deferred disposition or community supervision for illegal drug use, but who have not been convicted of that crime, could be required to participate in state-approved substance abuse education programs, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, featured right, has proposed. The House District 40 lawmaker on Wednesday, February 19, filed House Bill 642, which would give a presiding judge the authority to require a young offender, under age 18, to learn about the terrible consequences of unlawful drug abuse as a requirement for avoiding a harsher penalty or permanent criminal record. “Currently, minors who are convicted of drug offenses can be required to attend an alcohol awareness program. These programs are designed to help increase a minor’s awareness of the potential dangers and detriments of alcohol use,” Canales explained. “Unfortunately, this requirement does not extend to minors who are placed on deferred disposition or community supervision for drug-related offenses.” Deferred Disposition is a form of probation, which allows for dismissal of a charge if certain criteria(s) are met. Community supervision means the placement of a defendant by a court under a continuum of programs and sanctions, with conditions imposed by the court for a specified period. But, many young people who commit these offenses – often minor in nature – are entering pre-trial programs where they are not actually convicted of the crime, the House 40 state lawmaker continued. “A large percentage of juvenile crimes are misdemeanors involving kids with small amounts of drugs. These kids do not need to go to jail. They need an approach tailored to their issues,” Canales said. “Judges need more power to require local programs aimed to help our youth.” His legislation also comes as a major national study, with a conservative Texas point of view, shed more light on the need to provide juvenile offenders with local rehabilitation efforts in or near their home regions. That first-of-its-kind investigation comparing Texas youth with nearly identical characteristics shows that juveniles treated by court-approved programs closer to home “are far less likely to reoffend than those incarcerated in state correctional facilities,” the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, in partnership with Texas A&M University, announced on Thursday, January 29. Featured with Canales as part of a visit to the Texas Capitol in early February by Edinburg leaders is City Councilmember Richard Molina. Molina is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Operation Joint Forge-Bosnia and was honorably discharged. Molina was an employee of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department and later served as an Edinburg Police Sergeant for 11 years. Molina is now the owner and manager of Molina Rental Properties in Edinburg.

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Newspaper carriers file $100 million lawsuit against flagship newspaper of Freedom Communications, Inc., owner of McAllen Monitor and others

The family of former Rep. Cullen Looney, D-Edinburg, and his wife, Carol Lynn, gathered on Thursday, September 18, for the dedication of the Will Looney Legacy Park, which is an addition to the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg.  The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of a bronze sculpture entitled, “Texas Legacy.”   The sculpture depicts with great detail a young man mounted on horseback respectfully clasping the hand of an elderly woman standing next to the horse and rider. The figures represent the late Will Looney and his grandmother, the late Margaret Montgomery Looney. The sculpture is a gift from the Looney family. Featured, from left, are: Cullen Looney; Carol Lynn Looney; Cortney Looney; Forrest Runnels holding Forrest Runnels Jr.; and Lorin Looney holding William Cullen Runnels. See story later in this posting.

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The Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court on Tuesday, September 23, passed a balanced budget for the second year in a row. The 2009 general fund budget is roughly $162 million, an overall increase of 9.3 percent from 2008. “This is the second time in more than 20 years that Hidalgo County has had a balanced budget. The first time was last year,” said Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III, featured here during a recent appearance at the University of Texas-Pan American. “I am extremely pleased with the leadership of the court and the understanding and carefulness with which the budget department and department heads developed this balanced budget.”  See story later in this posting.

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Gov. Rick Perry, featured in this file photo during his visit to Edinburg earlier this summer, on Friday, September 26, encouraged the continued support of research in cancer prevention and treatment during the groundbreaking of the Baylor Cancer Center in Dallas.  “Baylor’s new facility will be an essential part of our statewide effort to eradicate this indiscriminate killer,” Perry said. “The brilliant ideas in cancer research developed at this center will move us closer to discovering a cure, bringing an end to cancer’s deadly role in our society.”  The governor noted that facilities like the Baylor Cancer Center combined with funding provided by Proposition 15, will launch Texas to the forefront of biomedical research and innovation. Proposition 15 was created by the Texas Legislature at Perry’s request through House Bill 14 and approved by voters in November 2007. It established the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, enabling the issuance of $3 billion in bonds over the 10 years to fund cancer research at institutions throughout the state. See story later in this posting.

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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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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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Edinburg city attorney post draws candidates with diverse legal, political credentials

The University of Texas-Pan American Foundation and VAMOS, the Valley Alliance of Mentors for Opportunities and Scholarships  announced at a press conference on Thursday, July 10 that they will partner to create the VAMOS/UTPAF Endowed Scholarship Program. VAMOS donated $1 million to the UTPA Foundation to kick off the program, and the University Foundation matched the funds. Pictured center, from left, holding the check, are: Sonia Falcón, VAMOS president; Alonzo Cantú, VAMOS chairman emeritus and UTPA Foundation board member; and Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas, UTPA president. Standing, from left, are Rodrigo Reyna, VAMOS board member; Lydia P. Alemán, UTPA University Advancement executive director; David Deanda, VAMOS board member; Paul  Rodríguez, VAMOS board member; Bill Ellis Jr., UTPA Foundation board member; A.R. (Felo) Guerra, UTPA Foundation board member; Heather Margain, VAMOS executive director; Alma De La Garza, UTPA Foundation board member; and R. David Guerra, UTPA Foundation chair. See story later in this posting.

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South Texas Health System, which includes Edinburg Regional Medical Center, Edinburg Children’s Hospital, and the South Texas Behavioral Health Center in Edinburg, is ranked among the top 10 contributors of the United Way of South Texas annual charity fundraiser.  Its collection of $55,724 from hospital employees in the local system, which also includes McAllen Heart Heart Hospital and McAllen Medical Center, ranked it number seven among corporate employee donors.  The United Way of South Texas helps fund various community organizations using these dollars to help local youth succeed, strengthen and support families, provide employment placement for the disabled, elderly assistance, transportation assistance, emergency center, CPS training, and many other services critical to Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley. Featured at Edinburg Regional Medical Center, from left, are: Thelma Garza; Joe Garza; Gilda Romero; Roxanna Godínez; Doug Matney; Lisa Killion; Linda Reséndez; Joel Peña; Joe Riley; and Ismael Morán.

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Janie Cabellero, featured left, a business advisor with the Small Business Development Center at the University of Texas-Pan American, and Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, are making final preparations for a major workshop that will help area residents seeking to invest in both start-ups and established commercial enterprises in the United States. The seminar, which will be conducted in Spanish, will be held on Wednesday, July 30, in the third floor meeting room at the McAllen Memorial Library, 601 N. Main Street.  The free seminar on foreign investments will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. “Pasaporte al Éxito:  Estrategias Claves Immigratorias de los EE.UU. para el 2008 y en Adelante” will cover the eligibility for investor visa categories, preparation and lodging of visa applications on behalf of immigrant investors; typical guidance and strategy development on the most effective methods for obtaining foreign investors visa status; and information regarding renewal, maintenance and change of status for foreign investors.  The Spanish session is being hosted by the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce  and the UTPA Small Business Development Center. It will be presented by Tindall & Foster, P.C., one of the nation’s largest law firms specializing in immigration law, which enjoys a national reputation in this field. Pre-registration is required to secure a seat.  Call the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at 928-0060.

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Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured left, presents a proclamation to Officer Balde  Gómez, center, and Chief of Police Quirino Muñoz on Tuesday, July 15, designating Tuesday, August 5 as “Edinburg’s Night Against Crime”. The 13th annual event, being hosted by the Edinburg Crime Stoppers Association, is part of a nationwide effort to empower citizens to work with local law enforcement to help spot, prevent, and discourage criminal activities in their hometowns.  In Edinburg, the event will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Edinburg Municipal Park, located at 714 South Raúl Longoria Road. Parking and admission to the local event is free and open to the public. There will be booths where food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase, and live concerts – also free – will be featured during the evening.  Robert Pulido y Los Clasicos, Riley y Los Gilitos, Los Badd Boys del Valle, and the 24/7 rock band will perform during the evening.  Prizes, vendors, kid rides, and a special guest appearance by the Green Ghost will also be featured.  Last year’s event drew more than 5,000 people. More information is available by calling the Edinburg Police Department at 383-7124. ••••••

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