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Without raising taxes, Edinburg prepared to provide $20 million towards construction of envisioned $76 million county courthouse

Longtime Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, who retired from the Texas Legislature on June 30 to assume her new duties on July 2 as Vice President for University Advancement at the University of Texas-Pan American, on Thursday, July 19, expressed her support for fellow Democrat and McAllen attorney Roberto “Bobby” Guerra. Guerra is facing Republican Party nominee Miriam Martínez of Edinburg, a renowned journalist and small business owner, for Gonzáles’ former House District 41 seat. Serving as the Mistress of Ceremony for the Legislative Report Card event in Mission hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Gonzáles provided introductions for legislators and other dignitaries during the gathering. She recognized Guerra, the Democratic Party nominee, as “the former chair of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party, and now, I believe, my successor – and November will tell, and I have no doubt: Mr. Bobby Guerra.” House District 41 includes most of McAllen, key portions of Edinburg, Pharr, and Mission, and all of Sharyland, Palmhurst, and Alton. Featured, from left, are all Democrats: Rep.-elect Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; former Rep. Gonzáles; and Bobby Guerra. The general elections, which cover local posts to U.S. president, will be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

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Miriam Martínez of Edinburg, the Republican nominee for state representative, House District 41, and Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, greeted potential voters during the Women’s Business Summit, held on Friday, June 22, at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. Martínez is facing McAllen attorney and former Hidalgo County Democratic Party chairman Roberto "Bobby" Guerra while Hinojosa is facing Dale A. Brueggemann, a Seguin businessman who in the Tuesday, July 31 primary runoff, won the GOP nomination over Eddie Zamora of McAllen. Qualified Texas voters will be going to the polls on Tuesday, November 6 to decide local, regional and national races, including the Martínez/Guerra and Hinojosa/Brueggemann contests. Edinburg and McAllen are both key constituencies in the House District 41 and Congressional District 15 races.

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With Christopher Vela of Edinburg, a Senate legislative intern, looking on, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, on Friday, August 3, fielded questions from reporters in McAllen regarding the formation of One Texas, a new statewide organization dedicated to engaging Hispanic voters and electing more Democrats to the Texas House of Representatives. Muñoz, Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, along with Rep. Trey Martínez-Fischer, D-San Antonio, had headlined the afternoon news conference held in the office of René  A. Ramírez, founder and owner of Pathfinder, a consulting firm specializing in government relations, economic development and community outreach in the Rio Grande Valley. The three Valley state representatives each donated $5,000 to One Texas as part of their appearance in McAllen. In addition to legislative issues, such as redistricting, public education, and civil rights, which are hallmarks of minority state lawmakers, One Texas is expanding its legislative priorities to transportation, water and energy infrastructure.

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Terry and Erica Canales, featured in this campaign photograph with their daughter and son, will be representing House District 40, which includes much of Edinburg, in the Texas Legislature beginning next January. Terry Canales, an attorney in Edinburg, won the July 31 Democratic Party primary runoff. He has no opponent in the November 2012 general election, and will succeed longtime Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, who is retiring at the end of his current two-year term. Canales, president of the Hidalgo County Young Lawyers Association, said as a state lawmaker he will work to help restore $5.4 billion in statewide budget cuts to public education, protect programs that provide health care for women, and help recruit major manufacturers to House District 40.

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South Texas College, in partnership with the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Division for Rehabilitation Services (DARS), is embarking in a new grant-funded program to help disabled students achieve college and career success. The program, which is titled “Project HIRE” is geared at ensuring students have access to college, get through college and achieve success through job placement after earning their degree. It is funded by a $225,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Development Disabilities, as well as an additional $31,425 from non-federal resources. Featured at the grant announcement, from left:  Jim Hanophy, Assistant Commissioner, DARS; Steve Ahlenius, President, McAllen Chamber of Commerce; Laura Villarreal, Director, DARS Project HIRE; Bruce Reed, Assistant Dean, College of Health Sciences and Human Services, the University of Texas-Pan American; Robert S. Nelsen, President, the University of Texas-Pan American; Debra Wanser, Commissioner, DARS; Rudy Martínez, Regional Director, DARS; Raymond Lee of EMR Consulting Group; Shirley A. Reed, President, South Texas College; and Paul Hernández, Dean of Student Support Services, South Texas College. See story later in this posting.

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The Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court on Tuesday, July 31, approved a proclamation declaring August 2012 as National Minority Donor Awareness Month. Jaime Longoria, the Assistant Chief Administrator at the Hidalgo County Judge’s Office, introduced the proclamation, emphasizing the importance of organ donation and how it is an ultimate gift of life. Longoria spoke from experience: his young son was both a recipient and became a donor when he lost his life. Representatives from the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance were in attendance and also shared their profound stories. Gabriel and Sylvia Espinoza of Edinburg lost an 18-year-old son, Jeremy, in March 2003, when he was killed as a passenger in a car accident. Incredibly, two weeks before his tragic death – in a pronouncement that showed he was wise beyond his youthful age – Jeremy had told his family that he always wanted to help people. He convinced them to donate his organs in the event of his passing. Isabel Garza of Mercedes became one of five people who received organ donations from Jeremy. She received Jeremy’s left kidney, telling county leaders that she is living a healthy and active life thanks to Jeremy. Court members unanimously approved the proclamation, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation among minorities, including Hispanics. Featured, first row, from left: Edwina P. Garza,  Public Relations Coordinator, Southern Region at Texas, Organ Sharing Alliance; Jaime Longoria; Isabel Garza; and Sylvia Espinoza. Back row, from left: Precinct 4 County Commissioner Joseph Palacios; Precinct 3 County Commissioner Joe Flores; County Judge Ramón García; and Precinct 2 Commissioner Héctor "Tito" Palacios.

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Lewis Joseph Lodico of Edinburg on Tuesday, July 24, was honored for his 60 years of service as as a member of the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court.  Born on September 7, 1934 in Silver Creek, New York, Lodico began his service in Edinburg on September 8, 1952, a day after his 18th birthday. Since then, he has served as an active volunteer firefighter, and this year marks his 60th continuous year of volunteer service with the department.  Throughout his career, Lodico has held numerous leadership positions within the department, including Assistant Fire Chief, and currently serves as Chief Emeritus, the highest honor in the Department. Lodico has served thousands of hours in emergency and fire service training in 31 subjects, and has mentored hundreds of young firefighters during his tenure, educating, listening, leading and guiding them in their lives. Lodico was joined by his wife Sharon and Deputy Chief Uvaldo Pérez, featured in the background, who spoke highly of Lodico’s commitment to the field and to his community. 

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Erica Rodríguez, Sabrina Rodríguez-Louck, and Johanna Sáenz, featured from left, the owners of the RGV Cupcake Factory in McAllen, on Tuesday, July 24, were honored by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court for their successful participation in Cupcake Wars, a television show on the Food Network channel. Sabrina and Erica represented the RGV Cupcake Factory in the competition, excelling in all aspects of the competition to earn the $10,000 grand prize as the first Texas winners on the show. The commissioners court congratulated the women entrepreneurs for their success and for showcasing Hidalgo County and the Rio Grande Valley in such a positive light on national television. Following the ceremony, the commissioners court and the public were treated to samples of the now nationally-renowned and delectable cupcakes. The county leaders featured in the back row are, from left: Precinct 3 Commissioner Joe Flores; County Judge Ramón García; Precinct 2 Commissioner Héctor "Tito" Palacios; and Precinct 1 Commissioner Joel Quintanilla.

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Bring out that sun screen and get ready for the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber’s “Jalapeño Golf Classic” on Saturday, August 25, at Los Lagos Golf Course in Edinburg. The event will feature cars from Frank Smith Toyota, Mercedes Benz, Boggus Ford and Clark Knapp Honda as the Hole-in-One prizes. A putting contest also will be available from Deutsch & Deutsch for a Caribbean Cruise or Honeymoon Package featuring several locations. Other competition will be the Longest Putt, Longest Drive, Closest to the Pin for A-B-C categories. Breakfast and Lunch will be served. Cocktails and refreshments will be made available by the Jalapeño Ladies during the entire tournament. Registration begins at 7 a.m. with tee time at exactly at 8 a.m. Door prizes are always plentiful. Sponsorships are still available at $4,000 for the Jalapeño Grande, $3,000 for the Shirt Sponsor, Cap Sponsorship at $1,500, Chili Piquin at $1,000 and a Hole Sponsorship at $75. Three-Man Teams are $500 with individual registrations at $150. Participants can promote their business while helping the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with their fundraiser. Promote your business while helping the RGVHCC with their fundraiser. More information on the tournament is available by calling the RGHVCC office at For more information on the tournament at 928-0060. Featured, front row from left, are Jalapeño Golf Classic committee members Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO for the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Donna Saccomanno and Ruthie McCollough. Back row from left are John Kowalski and Ronnie Bernal.

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Paul R. Rodríguez, 58, of McAllen, who currently serves as President and Chief Executive Officer for Valley Land Title Company, on Tuesday, July 24, was unanimously selected by his now-six colleagues on the South Texas Board of Trustees as the replacement for the late Michael Allen, who had passed away almost two years ago. Rodríguez reflected on the loss suffered by the Allen family and the STC community as a result of the Allen’s untimely passing. “I take this assignment with some regret because Michael Allen was a tremendous asset to the state, city, and the college, but I am very humbled and flattered that I was selected among the distinguished list of candidates,” he said. “I am looking forward to working with my fellow board members, administrators, staff and students at STC to continue the momentum of progress it has made.” See story later in this posting.

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Sergio Muñoz, Jr. to file bill extending property tax freeze to homeowners with cancer and diabetes

Sergio Muñoz, Jr., who has made job creation, more health care, better  access to education, and improved public safety – including cracking down of sexual predators – the foundation of his campaign, on Thursday, January 28, was endorsed for State Representative, House District 36, by the mayor and city council of his hometown of Mission. “Mission and House District 36 have been leaders in economic  development, international trade, and business growth for many years, not only in South Texas, but in the entire state,” said Mayor Norberto Salinas. “Sergio Muñoz, Jr. will deliver on his vision, which will result in the  creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs for our entire region.” Featured, from left: Councilmember  Rubén Plata; Councilmember María Elena Ramírez, Sergio Muñoz, Jr.; Mayor Norberto Salinas; Councilmember Nori González Garza; and Mayor Pro Tem Leo Olivarez, Sr. See story later in this posting.

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A kick-off of the strategic planning process for the Hidalgo County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) was held recently at The University of Texas-Pan American. CEDS, being developed through input from both public and private sectors, will incorporate results of an asset map of the region identifying its human, intellectual, financial, physical and institutional capital strengths, to help provide a roadmap to ensure the future economic vitality of the region locally and nationwide. The CEDS project – locally titled “IGNITE Hidalgo County” – and the asset map development was made possible by a grant received by the county from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration in 2007. Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez said it was important to have current data for the area in order to solicit companies to relocate or expand here or to successfully gain financial support from the state or other government agencies for projects to enhance area economic development. Featured at the Thursday, January 14 session, from left: Mike Blum, partner and managing broker with NAI Rio Grande Valley; Steve Ahlenius, president/CEO of McAllen Chamber of Commerce; Mayte Garrett, market director for Verde Corporate Realty Services; Ramiro Garza, Edinburg city manager; Dr. Daniel King, PSJA ISD superintendent; James Langabeer, UTPA vice president for Business Affairs; Dr. Fausto Meza, physician administrator with Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Judge Ramírez; and Mike Willis, vice president of Office of Business Partnerships with Texas Workforce Division. See story later in this posting.

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Hernán De La Rosa, a bus driver with the Edinburg school district, featured second from left, was recently recognized by the local school board for being a hero by saving students from a burning school bus.  At 7 a.m. on December 17, De La Rosa called 911 for emergency help when he noticed that his bus was on fire as he drove into the unloading zone at Cavazos Elementary. His bravery included trying to extinguish the blaze with his fire extinguisher, but he quickly realized that the fire had spread. He then evacuated the students from the burning bus in a timely manner, preventing any children from being injured. The school board recognized De La Rosa for his brave and steadfast actions in saving the children and for his quick thinking in stopping the burning bus far enough away from the school, where it could have created more problems for the school campus. De La Rosa is a five-year veteran bus driver for the ECISD. Featured, from left, are: Omar Palacios, board president; De la Rosa; Rudy Zamora, Director of Transportation; and Dr. René Gutiérrez, the superintendent of schools.

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Members of a newly-created organization, United Brownsville, participate in a major ceremony held on Thursday, January 21 at Brownsville City Hall to commemorate the launching of their organization and its efforts to promote their region of the Rio Grande Valley. The wheels of change kept their momentum as The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and six other entities launched United Brownsville with a signing ceremony at Brownsville City Hall. Starting where Imagine Brownsville left off, the newly formed United Brownsville will have an organizational structure designed to provide a sustainable mechanism for cooperation to leverage institutional resources for the implementation and tracking of the initiatives in the Imagine Brownsville plan. “We must again come together,” said UTB/TSC President and a United Brownsville Board Co-chair Dr. Juliet V. García. “Any one of us alone can achieve small things, but it takes a community to come together to achieve bigger things.” See story later in this posting.

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President George W. Bush in September 2008 signs into law a measure that expanded the definition of a disabled person to individuals who have cancer and diabetes, along with several other major illnesses. As a result, Sergio Muñoz, Jr., a Democratic candidate for House District 36 in South Texas, says he would file legislation in 2011 in Austin that would allow Texas voters to extend the existing property tax freezes to homeowners with cancer, diabetes, and the other major illnesses now considered as physical disabilities by federal law. Under the property tax freeze currently in effect in all Texas school districts and among many cities, counties and community colleges in the state, qualified homeowners still have to pay their taxes, but those taxes – under most circumstances – would never increase. “In light of the changes at the federal level, I believe that the current state property tax freeze protections should be extended to homeowners with cancer, diabetes and the other illnesses identified as disabilities by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008,” said Muñoz. See lead story in this posting.

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