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Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP: McAllen recovers more than $2 million in late property taxes and fees during latest fiscal year

Rep. Aaron Peña of Edinburg on Tuesday, December 14, announced in Austin that he has switched to the Republican Party, making him the first Hidalgo County state legislator who is part of the GOP. Peña, featured here at the Republican Party Headquarters in Austin on December 14, was elected on November 2 to his sixth two-year term as a Democrat. Peña said he will run for reelection in 2012 on the Republican Party ticket. Republican heavyweights attended the GOP press conference, including Gov. Rick Perry (featured left, back of Peña), who praised the 10-year South Texas lawmaker, along with Rep. Allan Ritter of Nederland (featured right, back of Peña), who also switched to the GOP. "They’ve always stood out as remarkably conservative compared to the other members of their former party," Perry said, himself a former Democrat. "I know a little something about trying to stop a political party slide away from those essential values, and then making the decision it’s time to move on. It becomes clear when you are no longer welcome and that any change in that political party is highly unlikely." Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, struck a similar note, noting the tremendous victories statewide in last month’s legislative elections, particularly in the House of Representatives. "November 2nd was a historic day for the Republican Party of Texas as we not only increased the number of Republicans in the State House from 77 to 99, but also added approximately 300 new Republican officeholders statewide. I believe a revitalized and reorganized Republican Party ticket played a significant role in this accomplishment, along with having a strong top of the ticket led by Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. (David) Dewhurst and Attorney General (Gregg)Abbott. It is our hope to build upon these gains in the future, in part by reaching out to independents and Democrats as well as renewing our committment to outreach to minority communities." Boyd Richie, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, lashed out at Peña. Richie’s statement follows: “In defecting to the Republican Party, Aaron Peña is abandoning the voters of Hidalgo County. Just weeks after the men and women of his district elected him as a Democrat, Rep. Peña is turning his back on them and pledging his support to a Republican agenda that is harmful to his constituents. If Rep. Peña had any respect for his voters, he would resign and run as a Republican in a special election, but Peña won’t do that because he knows he would be defeated. Aaron Peña is joining a Republican Party that is hostile to the hardworking families of Hidalgo County. A Republican Party whose leaders are proposing larger class sizes, laying off thousands of teachers and cutting access to higher education promises to deliver a crushing blow to economic opportunity for families in Peña’s district. Aaron Peña is also joining a party whose legislators have filed legislation that would assault the rights of Hispanic citizens, including bills that mimic Arizona’s assault on the fundamental rights guaranteed to us as citizens of our democracy. The Texas Republican version of ‘Hispanic outreach’ amounts to reaching out to self-serving politicians like Aaron Peña while reaching into communities to take away economic and educational opportunity.”

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Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, featured standing, earlier this fall at the Alfredo Gonzalez Texas State Veterans Home in McAllen told leaders for area veterans groups that he will support state efforts to develop a federal VA Hospital for the Rio Grande Valley. Patterson, who also serves as chairman of the Texas Veterans Land Board, currently has the authority to issue bonds for the construction of state veterans homes in Texas. Rep. Armando "Mando"  Martínez, D-Weslaco, seated in this photograph, has pre-filed legislation that would give Gov. Rick Perry the authority to tap into the $190 million Texas Enterprise Fund to help build a federal VA Hospital in deep South Texas. "Helping develop a major VA Hospital in the Valley would have huge economic benefits to the region and to the state, and that is the objective of the Texas Enterprise Fund," said Martínez. "My legislation is consistent with the goals of the Texas Enterprise Fund, and it also allows the state’s leadership to help take care of our wounded war heroes and their families, who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms." See story later in this posting.

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Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, featured right, on Wednesday, December 1, announced plans for LZ: RGV, a major event – free to the public – set for April 9 at the McAllen Convention Center. (LZ is a common military abbreviation for a helicopter landing zone.) "Our Vietnam Veterans of South Texas have not had an official welcome home event to recognize the sacrifices made during Vietnam," García explained. "This event is intended to recognize all Vietnam Veterans in South Texas and remember the killed in action and missing in action heroes that fought on behalf of our country." An estimated 12,000 Valley residents served in Vietnam, according to event organizers. In addition to area veteran leaders who participated at the press conference, held in García’s law office in Edinburg, were Willacy County Judge

Aurelio "Keter" Guerra, featured standing, second from left, and Willacy County Judge-elect John González, featured standing, third from left. Other elected officials in attendance for the announcement but not shown in this photograph were McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz and Willacy County Sheriff heriff Larry Spence, a Vietnam veteran. For more information on the planned event, and for area residents to submit  stories and pictures about their experiences during the Vietnam War, please go online at http://www.lzrgv.com.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce has announced the 2010-2011 Board of Directors, including the selection of Johnny Rodríguez, featured seated, third from right, as Chairman of the Board for the next 12 months. The organization’s leadership recently made time for a portrait inside the Edinburg Depot, which houses the chamber’s administrative headquarters. Seated, from left: Elias Longoria (Vice Chair-Treasurer); Elva Jackson Garza (Vice Chair-Governmental Affairs); Edna Peña (Chair-elect); Johnny Rodríguez (Chairman); Cris Torres (Vice Chair-Fiesta Edinburg); and Mark Peña (Vice Chair-Marketing). Center row, from left: Maggie Kent; Cynthia Bocanegra (Immediate Past Chair); Naomi Perales (Vice Chair-Ambassadors); Dina Araguz; and Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Toribio “Terry” Palacios. Back row, from left: Robert McGurk; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, president of the University of Texas-Pan American; and Gus Casas (Vice Chair-Tourism). Key chamber board members not in this photograph are Marissa Castañeda, Jacob De León, Darcy Kelly, and Flo Prater (Vice Chair – Leadership Edinburg).

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GE Engine Services, based in McAllen, received the Employer of Excellence Award from Workforce Solutions/Lower Rio Grande Valley at the Texas Workforce Commission’s (TWC) 14th Annual Texas Workforce Conference held November 17-19 in Dallas. The award honors an employer that is actively involved with Texas Workforce Solutions and has made a positive impact on employers, workers and the community. Featured, including members of the governing board for Workforce Solutions/Lower Rio, are from left: John Gonzáles, Willacy County Judge-elect and lead chief elected official; Sonia Quintero, board member; TWC Chairman Tom Pauken; TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Ronny Congleton; Yvonne Garza, GE Engine Services; Sam F. Vale, board chair; Yvonne “Bonnie” González, Workforce Solutions/Lower Rio Grande Valley chief executive officer; Mike Willis, Workforce Solutions/Lower Rio Grande Valley vice president; and TWC Commissioner Representing the Public Andrés Alcantar. See story later in this posting. 

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281 Tattoo of Edinburg is hosting a “Toys for Tatts”  toy drive through Wednesday, December 22. Everyone is encouraged to donate a toy valued at $25 to be dropped off at the Tattoo shop, located on 222 E. Monte Cristo, Suite 6. With every donation, donors can receive a free 4×4 tattoo of their choice. The toy donations will be given to the Rainbow Room of Edinburg.  The Rainbow Room is a non-profit organization and an emergency resource center available to Children Protective Services caseworkers to help them meet the critical needs of abused and neglected children. Russo’s NY Pizzeria will also be donating pizzas to all of the children during the gift giveaway and celebration, set for December 22 at the Rainbow Room. “We are very excited about the ‘Toys for Tatts’ toy drive, we are the first tattoo shop in the Rio Grande Valley to host a celebration such as this. We feel it’s important to give back to our community and support those who are less fortunate,” said John De La Garza, artist in residence and part owner of 281 Tattoos. “We hope your contributions enable us to continue this endeavor every year.”  Featured promoting the charitable drive are, from left: Iván “Shorty Ink Hustla” Aguilar; Imelda Rodríguez, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director; John “El John” De La Garza; Evana Vleck, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Marketing Director; and Jimmy (El Payaso Colorin) Colorin. For more information on “Toys for Tatts”, please contact the tattoo shop by calling 956/381-6708.

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Top Exemplary Migrant Students are honorees at the Texas Migrant Education Conference hosted by the Association of Migrant Educators of Texas (AMET) at the Convention Center in  South Padre Island. These outstanding students each addressed conference participants, recalling their struggles and how their parents and school personnel encouraged them along the way to excel in school. These students are now enrolled at major universities in Texas and in the U.S. Featured, from left: Rubén Hernández, Jr., Donna High School; Sofia Samantha Velázquez, Johnny G. Economedes High School in Edinburg; Carlissa García, La Joya  High School; Eliza DeDow, Mathis High School; Michelle Rangel, Sidney Lanier High School; and Anabel Rodríguez, Rio Grande City High School. See story later in this posting.

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Roland Arriola leaves UT-Pan American to help next generation of Texans succeed

Edwards Abstract and Title Co., has been recognized by the Texas Land Title Association as the company with the second most consecutive years of service in the state of Texas. Edwards Abstract and Title Co. was founded in 1880 by Judge James Henry Edwards with property records of both Starr and Hidalgo counties. In 2008, Edwards is celebrating 128 years of serving the region with four branch offices in Hidalgo County. The company is independently owned and operated and the corporate office is located in Edinburg. Featured in the lobby of the Edwards Corporate Office in Edinburg are: Elva Jackson Garza, Vice President/Marketing Manager; Marilyn De Luna, McAllen Branch Manager/Escrow Officer; Diana S. Kaufold, Vice President/Edinburg Branch Manager/Escrow Officer; Byron Jay Lewis, President; Rachel Arévalo, Executive Vice President/Commercial Closing Specialist; Mary Arce, Weslaco Branch Manager/Escrow Officer (back) Mary Barrientos, Mission Branch Manager/Escrow Officer; Mel Casas, Branch Operations Coordinator; Edna Cazares, Comptroller; Dan Cook, I. T. Manager; Mark Peña, Attorney – Lewis, Monroe & Peña; Angie Villarreal, Assistant Plant Manager/Examiner; Nancy Bryant, Accounting Manager; Alan D. Monroe, Attorney – Lewis, Monroe & Peña and René Correa, Plant Manager/Title Attorney.

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Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas, president of the University of Texas-Pan American, spoke during the annual Go Red for Women Luncheon and Showcase, at the Cimarron Country Club in Mission on Thursday, May 22. At the event, hosted by the American Heart Association, Cárdenas talked about her heart surgery and the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Pictured from left to right are Cárdenas; Dr. Filiberto Rodríguez-Salinas, M.D. cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon; Gilda Romero, chief operating officer for the South Texas Health System; and Rebecca Taylor, senior corporate marketing director for the American Heart Association. For more information on the Go Red for Women event, contact Taylor at 956/984-0201.

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Once again South Texas College’s commitment to the higher education of Hispanic students is being highlighted on the national education scene. Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine ranks the college third in the nation in the enrollment of Hispanic students among all U.S. colleges. Hispanic students comprise more than 94 percent of the college’s total enrollment. The ranking appears in the May 5, 2008 issue. Featured here are some of the more than 2,000 students who graduated earlier in May. See story later in this posting.

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There are high hopes for “Archipos” and the Mini Baja team from The University of Texas-Pan American to do well as they gear up to compete in the international Mini Baja competition, June 11-14 in Orford, Quebec in Canada. The UTPA team will be among 120 teams competing from the United States and around the world in the international competition. Sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the object of the Mini Baja competition is to simulate real-world engineering design projects. Students work together to design, build, test, promote and race a vehicle within the limits of the rules. The team includes Dr. Arturo A. Fuentes, associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior adviser; Dr. Kamalaksha Sarkar, mechanical engineering lecturer and adviser; team captain Joe Villanueva; Torres; Julian Gutiérrez, co-captain; Humberto Rodríguez; Luis Domínguez, Eddie E. Pérez, Roberto Pérez, Victor Salinas, Nathaniel Olivarez, Astrid K. Torres, and Eleazar Ruiz. See story later in this posting.

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Dr. Roland S. Arriola, Ph.D., on Wednesday, May 28, announced the formation of ENCORE – Engaging Communities for College Readiness, a major initiative of the Texas Valley Communities Foundation to help more students aspire, and be academically prepared, for college and university life. Arriola, a former longtime board member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, is president of the TVCF. The non-profit group, which is based in Edinburg, plans to create a $100 million endowment to help dozens of Valley charities help improve the quality-of-life in deep South Texas. See lead story later in this posting.

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