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For state representative candidate Javier Villalobos, life’s blessings measured by helping others succeed

For McAllen attorney Javier Villalobos (featured right), who is seeking the House District 41 state representative post on November 4, his life’s journey has seen him struggle his way out of the agricultural fields of Texas and Minnesota to achieve personal and professional successes that include raising a loving family, and becoming partner of a law firm which has offices in McAllen, San Antonio, and Houston. However, he firmly believes, good fortune has little meaning if a person doesn’t use his life’s blessings to help others succeed as well. “I want everyone who works hard to have the same opportunities I’ve had,” Villalobos says. “That means we need new leadership in Austin advocating for our values: quality education, support for small businesses, and lower taxes.” Villalobos is seen here with his wife, Annette, and Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick. See lead story in this posting.

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Jeff Corwin, wildlife conservationist and host of the popular Animal Planet shows The Jeff Corwin Experience and Corwin’s Quest, was the first speaker for the University of Texas-Pan American’s annual Distinguished Speakers Series that kicked off Tuesday, September 30 at the Fine Arts Auditorium. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and the general public packed the auditorium for an opportunity to hear from Corwin and meet some of his animal co-stars.  At the end of the event, Corwin took questions from the audience. Featured far right is Corwin with audience members who participated in the presentation by holding one of several reptiles he brought with him.  The next Distinguished Speakers Series will feature Dr. Jehan Sadat, the widow of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.  She is a lifelong advocated for women and children’s rights.  She will be in Edinburg at the Fine Arts Auditorium on Monday, November 17.  For more information on the series, call 956/316-7989.

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Students at The University of Texas-Pan American got a chance to display some rousing Bronc spirit during noontime on Thursday, September 17, at the inaugural Gladiator Day event organized by the Student Alumni Association (SAA). This new organization, an affiliate of the UTPA Alumni Association, seeks to bring old traditions back to the university while creating new traditions and increased school spirit that will hopefully be cemented within the student population, said SAA President John Taméz, a 2008 UTPA graduate in communications now pursuing a master’s in business administration at the university. “I feel students on campus are hungry for traditions right now. I want them to believe that when they leave this university that they have had the best college experience that they could have ever imagined. Through traditions and school pride I thing we can accomplish that,” he said. Featured left to right at Gladiator Day are Student Alumni Association members Erik Valdéz; Taméz; Félix Rodríguez; Melany Rodríguez; Krissy Martínez; Omar Estrella; and Manny Rivas.  See story later in this posting.

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The city of Edinburg is celebrating its 100-year anniversary with community wide events and celebrations planned for the week of Sunday, October 5 through Saturday, October 11. During the same time, the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department will be promoting National Fire Prevention Week, with attention focused on fire safety and preventing home fires. Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, recently acknowledged the contributions of the fire department to the city’s past, present and future by creating a special commemorative centennial poster featuring an image of an Edinburg fire truck taken at last year’s fire prevention week activities. Peña presented the framed poster to Chief Shawn Snider and other firefighters at the city’s downtown firehouse. Featured at the main fire station are, from left: Rolland Pursley, deputy fire chief; Snider; Peña; Antonio Salazar, deputy fire chief; and Richard Drewry, fire marshall. See story, along with schedule of other centennial activities, later in this posting.

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Shan Rankin, executive director for the Museum of South Texas History (MOST) in Edinburg, on Sunday, October 5, led the Edinburg Centennial kick-off ceremony with the lighting of the birthday cake by local leaders.  The celebration, which was free and open to the public, was part of a week-long series of events in the three-time All-America City.  It included activities, an historic exhibition including the history of Edinburg, free admission to the museum, and more. The Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department Museum was also open free to the public on Sunday, and was available for self-guided tours. From left are: Mayor Joe Ochoa; Melissa Tijerina with MOST; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; City Councilmember Alma Garza; and City Councilmember Noé Garza.

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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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EEDC authorizes $10,000 investment to help promote Edinburg through film, The Red Queen

A high-resolution map of the proposed routes for the $650 million Hidalgo County Loop, including the northern loop that would impact Edinburg featured in this graphics, is now available on the Internet, either by clicking on the ad icon posted on the left side of this page, or by logging on to the web site of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority.  Also, public hearing on the proposed routes have been scheduled for late July, including two that will focus on the northern loop near Edinburg, know as Section C and Section D. Section C proposes to connect U.S. Expressway 83 near Peñitas north to U.S. Highway 281 north of Edinburg. Section D of the planned loop – which proposes to connect from U.S. Expressway 83 between Alamo and Donna to U.S. Highway 281 near Edinburg. Section C will be discussed on Wednesday, July 23, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Elementary Cafeteria, 1801 Diamond Avenue in Peñitas. On Tuesday, July 29, Section D will be reviewed in a public hearing to take place at the Edinburg North High School Library, 3101 N. Closner, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  The Hidalgo County Loop is a planned $650 million to $750 million roadway system that will be designed to direct heavy commercial cargo trucks away from population centers as they transport their goods between Texas and Mexico. Persons interested in attending any of the five scheduled public hearings in Hidalgo (July 22), Peñitas (July 23), Donna (July 24), Edinburg (July 29), or McAllen (July 30) may contact the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority at 956/565-9813.

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South Texas College on Tuesday, June 24, honored Edinburg native and Vietnam veteran Edward “Ned” Pillow Cooper, dedicating the college’s new 27,825 square foot Cooper Center for Communication Arts in his name and memory. Participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Pecan Main Campus in McAllen included, from left: Dr. Alejo Salinas Jr. and Irene Garcia, members of STC’s Board of Trustees; Gary Gurwitz, vice-chair of STC’s Board of Trustees; and Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president. “Edward ‘Ned’ Cooper was born in Edinburg, attended the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo schools and eventually lived in McAllen.  He was well liked and respected by his classmates, friends and the community. As a Navy navigator, he gave his absolute best for his country,” said Salinas. “Mrs.  Edwynne Cooper, his mother, requested that ‘Ned’ be honored in some fashion for giving his life to his country during the Vietnam War.  The Board of Trustees of STC chose to honor both ‘Ned’ and his mother by naming the state of art building for the performing arts in their honor.”  Additional details and photographs of the new facility are available through the STC website by logging on to: http://www.southtexascollege.edu/coopercenter/gallery/photos/building/index.html. See story later in this posting.

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Some of the members of the Edinburg Home Buyers Expo Committee, recently formed to help area residents overcome obstacles faced in trying to buy a new home, listened to Elva Jackson-Garza, featured at the podium addressing the Edinburg City Council on Tuesday, June 17. The citizens volunteer group announced it will sponsor the event on Saturday, July 26 at Edinburg North High School from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  The sessions will allow any resident, at no charge, to learn about the home buying process, ranging from securing financing to understanding real estate terminology. From left are: Edna Peña with Horizon Properties; Manuel Cantú, Jr. with Rio Valley Realty; Elias Longoria, Jr., a member of the board of directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Ramiro Garza, Jr., EEDC executive director;  Marty Martin, Rio Valley Realty; and Sam Saxena, Rapid Mortage. There are almost 30 real estate industry professionals involved in the planning of the Edinburg Home Buyers Expo. See story later in this posting.

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Screen Actors Guild performers Estephania  LeBaron and Valente Rodríguez, most famous for starring on ABC’s The George López Show, recently rehearsed a scene for an upcoming movie, The Red Queen, which is being filmed by University Theatre Productions at the University of Texas-Pan American. The movie, an action-thriller that focuses on a young woman’s search for the true identity of her deceased mother, is scheduled to complete location shooting the first week in July, with hopes that it can compete in major film festivals later this fall. On Tuesday, June 24, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation approved a $10,000 grant to help in the production of the film, which will include scenes that feature Edinburg, and also expose UT-Pan American on a national and level.  See lead story in this posting.

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Hundreds show up for ribbon cutting ceremony at sophisticated DHR Cancer Center in Edinburg

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Medical, legislative, and community leaders from Edinburg and Hidalgo County participated in a July 11 ribbon-cutting ceremony welcoming the $15 million Cancer Center at Renaissance to southwest Edinburg, the latest phase in a $150 million expansion of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. The 54,000-square-foot facility will bring 50 new employees and generate a $30 million economic impact to the city and the surrounding communities, said Mayor Joe Ochoa. “This is only a tip of the iceberg, knowing that we will have, when all of this expansion is finished, more than 1,000 employees and more than $1 billion in economic impact to this region and its economy,” Ochoa added. Former Mayor Richard García, who serves as the president of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation – of which Ochoa is also a member – said the Cancer Center serves as another economic-development prize and recruiting tool for the city. “From an economic development standpoint, a facility such as this helps to retain and attract major employers, because one of the things their employees look for is access, locally, to very high-quality health care,” said García. “Many people were having to go to San Antonio and Houston to receive the technology that this hospital now has available.” See story later in this posting.

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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, left, meets with Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos (center) and Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, on Wednesday, July 11, to hear concerns from border leaders over key issues. Among other topics, Cornyn updated Valley leaders on border security and immigration reform. He reiterated his commitment and work to ensure that no border fencing will move forward without local input. He also committed to work with them to find innovative solutions to border security, like enhancing natural barriers and the control of Carrizo cane. See relates story later in this posting.

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Mikal Watts, center, is one of two Democrats who have announced preliminary plans to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in the November 2008 general election. Watts, shown here during a recent fundraiser hosted in Edinburg at the home of former Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, could be facing Houston state Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, for the March 2008 Democratic Party nomination to face Cornyn. Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, has signed a letter urging Noriega to run for U.S. Senate, while Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, who represents southwest Edinburg, says she is not ready to take a sides in the potential Democratic showdown. Featured with Watts at the local fundraiser are, from left: García; Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Watts; Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa; and Judge Linda Yañez of the Texas 13th Court of Appeals. See story later in this posting.

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