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Weslaco strengthens bid for airport designation despite Edinburg’s opposition and rival proposal

Dr. Bin Fu, assistant professor in Department of Computer Science at The University of Texas-Pan American, has become the second faculty member on the Edinburg campus to receive the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious honor, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award. The NSF accolade is presented to junior faculty members at CAREER-eligible organizations who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Dr. Karen Lozano, mechanical engineering associate professor who holds the Julia Beecherl Professorship in Engineering at UTPA, won the honor in 2001. “The CAREER Award is a dream for many tenure track faculty members. Before receiving the confirmation from NSF, I did not even believe it would be true for me,” Fu said. “I hope this will encourage more junior faculty members at UTPA to join this national competition.” See story later in this posting. 

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The South Texas Transplant Center at McAllen Medical Center on Tuesday, April 7, held a public flag raising ceremony as part of “Flags Across America", a Donate Life America initiative which honors and celebrates the hundreds of thousands of donors and recipients whose lives have been affected by organ, eye and tissue donation. The Donate Life flag was officially raised by Micaela Ledezma, who after six years on dialysis, received a kidney from a cadaver and underwent a transplant procedure at the South Texas Transplant Center at McAllen Medical Center. With a healthy kidney, Ledezma has been able to live her life without dialysis. Featured with Ledezma is  Joel Peña, System Director of Volunteer Services. Partially obscured by the flagpole to her right is Fidel Ozuna from the hospital’s Engineering Department. See story later in this posting. 

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Community leaders and residents of the Mid Valley communities, including  Alamo, Donna, Mercedes, Progreso, Progreso Lakes, San Juan, and Weslaco, are featured in this portrait with Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco (first row, third from left) and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville (first row, third from right), during a visit last month to the Texas Capitol by a delegation from those cities. Late last week, House Bill 848 by Martínez, which would allow the governor to designate the Mid Valley Airport in Weslaco as the disaster relief headquarters for the Valley, was heard by a major House committee. Lucio also represents Weslaco in his senatorial district, and will be pressed into action by his constituents to rally support for the Weslaco airport measure, and get it passed out of the Senate as well. Weslaco Mayor Buddy de la Rosa, featured to Lucio’s left, has publicly endorsed the Weslaco airport legislation. See lead story on the Mid Valley Airport and a related story on Mid Valley Day later in this posting. 

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City Council on Tuesday, March 3, to consider recommending state incentives for proposed $14 million Edinburg Medical Conference Center

Area leaders are calling on South Texans to join Valley veterans in Edinburg on Saturday, March 14, to help kick off a march to San Antonio designed to continue rallying support for a Veterans Affairs Hospital for deep South Texas. The march, which will include Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, and Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, will begin at 9 a.m. at the Sekula Memorial Library, 1906 S. Closner Boulevard, in Edinburg. The march will end on Friday, March 20, at the Audie Murphy Memorial VA Hospital, 7400 Merton Minter Street, in San Antonio. For more information, residents may contact Jesús Bocanegra at 956/246-8342 or Rey Leal at 949/292-7185. For sponsorship, persons may contact Chris Treviño at 956/720-2381.

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Edinburg Home Buyers Expo organizational and planning committee will address the Edinburg City Council on Tuesday, March 3, with an update on the 2nd Annual Edinburg Home Buyers Expo, scheduled for Saturday, April 18, at the ECHO Hotel. The committee’s main goal is to educate and inform Edinburg residents and others interested about many topics regarding the housing market. “This is an opportune time to invest in real estate. If you are one who has been saving and waiting to grab a good deal, the time is now," said Edna Peña, realtor with Horizon Properties. Featured, from left: Verónica Guerrero, City of Edinburg; Edna Peña, Horizon Properties; Elva Jackson Garza, Edwards Abstract and Title Co. and Expo Chair; Flo Prater, Rio Valley Realty; Marty Martin, Rio Valley Realty; Michelle Mendoza, County of Hidalgo; Steve de la Garza, County of Hidalgo; Anna L. Casares, International Bank of Commerce; María (Charo) Mann, Southwest Community Investment Corporation Women’s Business Center; Letty Reyes, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; and Irene Del Toro, Texas Valley Communities Foundation. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce along with the Edinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau will host the 3rd Annual Community Health Fair & Edinburg on Wheels, Saturday, March 7 from 8 a.m until noon. The event will be held at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, 602 W. University Drive. The Health Fair is currently accepting participants. Booth entries cost $75 for non-profit organizations, $100 for chamber members or $150 for future chamber members. All businesses and organizations in the health and medical field are encouraged to participate. The Edinburg on Wheels is a six-mile bike ride along Edinburg’s “Hike & Bike” trails, promoting health and wellness for people of all ages. Bike ride registration will be from 8 – 8:45 a.m., and the ride begins promptly at 9 a.m. T-shirts for the first 100 registrants will be given out for free. Snacks, water and drinks will also be provided. Families are greatly encouraged to participate. The event is sponsored by Stonebridge Injury Accident Clinic. For more information, please call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974. Featured, promoting the event, are, from left: Johnny Rodríguez, Melissa Rodríguez, Cristal Cavazos, Frank Lara, Evana Vleck, Kimberly Rodríguez, Imelda Rodríguez, Letty González, and John Paul Rodríguez.

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South Texas College and The University of Texas-Pan American have developed the Start Here, Finish There Student Transfer Success Action Plan to ensure students have an easier time completing their degrees through a partnership between both higher education institutions. “The plan includes strategies to develop a seamless transition for STC graduates transferring to UTPA,” said Juan E. Mejia, STC vice president for academic affairs. “The more than 25 strategies included in the plan have clear timelines for implementation and accountability for completion.” Featured, from left at the UTPA campus, are: Dr. Paul Sale, UTPA provost and vice president for academic affairs, sporting an STC cap and Mejia, wearing a UTPA cap to symbolize a deepening partnership between the two higher ed institutions. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg’s retail economy in December 2008 up more than 21 percent over same month in 2007

Mayor Joe Ochoa, who earlier this year announced he would not be seeking reelection in May, on Tuesday, February 10, was honored by the Texas House of Representatives for leading Edinburg through an unprecedented period of economic development and improvements in the quality-of-life during his 13 years as one of South Texas’ most effective political leaders. The high praise was contained in House Concurrent Resolution 39, authored by Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, whose House District 41 includes southwest Edinburg. The measure, which was approved unanimously by the 150-member House of Representatives, was publicly endorsed by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, whose House District 40 includes most of the three-time All-America City. Ochoa was credited for heavily influencing the city’s "dramatic growth and prosperity," noting that during his tenure as mayor, Edinburg has seen the number of all properties in Edinburg increase dramatically, from $500 million in assessed valuations when he first took office in 1993, to $3 billion today. See story later in this posting. 

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Roland Arriola, Ph.D., president of the Texas Valley Communities Foundation, was one of 15 members appointed on Monday, February 16, by the University of Texas System Board of Regents to serve on a presidential search committee to advise regents on the selection of a president for UT-Pan American. Arriola, a former member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, was selected because of his role as president of the UT-Pan American Alumni Association. The UT System appointed Charles A. Sorber as interim president last month. Sorber assumed the interim presidency on Monday, February 16. The advisory committee will be asked to present the names of no more than 10 candidates – unranked – to the board, which will make the final decision. Featured, from left, during a major conference in Harlingen last fall, are Kelli Rod, Vice President of Community Relations with TXU Energy; Arriola; and Courtney P. Suhr, Senior Strategic Communications Specialist with the OneStar Foundation.  See story on the presidential advisory panel later in this posting. 

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Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, featured left, and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured right, on Tuesday, February 10, presented a Senate Resolution to members of Amigos Del Valle celebrating Senior Day at the State Capitol. Lucio paid tribute to the organization’s 2008-2009 King Luis Barrientos and Queen Eva Martínez, featured center, both representing Casa Del Mar in Brownsville. The 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 Royal Courts were also honored and included members from senior centers throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Amigos Del Valle is a consortium of county and city governmental entities working to provide nutrition, transportation and housing services to senior citizens of Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties.  Helping senior citizens live healthy, productive and self-sufficient lives is the group’s primary goal. The Executive Director of Amigos Del Valle, Inc., located in Mission, is José Garza.  

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Former Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, is back in action at the Texas Capitol, working on key measures designed to help millions of Texans. But he is not a registered lobbyist nor a state lawmaker. Instead of providing public service in either of those two influential roles, he is serving the state as a member of the nation’s most powerful political entity – the American citizen. In that role, Gutiérrez and his wife, Cecilia, along with Delia Oropez of Weslaco and Estella Lane Treviño of Edinburg, are members of the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature, a powerful coalition of influential Texans who work on measures to help older residents. Featured in this portrait taken in the chamber of the House of Representatives are, from left: Delia Oropez; former Rep. Gutiérrez; and Cecilia Gutiérrez. See story later in this posting. 

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Congratulations to Maureen F. McClain, associate director of Disability Services at The University of Texas-Pan American, who was recently appointed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. McClain was one of five individuals in the state, whose terms will expire February 1, 2010, to be chosen for the committee that works to ensure Texans with disabilities may live their lives with integrity, independence and productivity. Pictured is McClain being sworn in by U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa in late January in McAllen to the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. McClain, who has been employed with UTPA for more three years, earned her bachelor’s degree in rehabilitative services and a master’s in rehabilitative counseling from UTPA. She is a member of the Association of Higher Education and Disabilities, and was appointed to the Academic Advisement Council. To learn more about UTPA’s Disability Services department and the services offered, visit http://www.utpa.edu/disability or for more information on the committee, visit http://www.governor.state.tx.us/disabilities/. 

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Criminals don’t take a day off and they are always on at the top of their games. So why shouldn’t the rest of society be just as prepared to trump their aces, especially when it comes to cyber security? That’s why South Texas College is hosting a Cyber Security Workshop on Thursday, February 19 and Friday, February 20 at its Pecan Campus in McAllen. Offered in conjunction with Texas A&M University, the National Science Foundation and TEEX, the free workshop offers business owners and technology professionals the latest information about cyber terrorism and cyber security issues. “We are very excited to host this workshop because the developments in technology occurring every day mean that we must be extremely vigilant in learning about the lat est innovations and how criminals are using them to try and damage our identities,” said Raquel Peña, assistant professor of computer science for STC, featured in this photograph. “But we don’t have to be victims, as long as we stay ahead of the curve and use the tools available to keep the cyber world safe.” Space for the workshop is limited to 80 participants and is filling up quickly. For more information or to reserve a spot, call 956/872-2056. 

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Several South Texas College students had the unique opportunity to meet recently with Texas lawmakers in Austin to share their views about higher education, as well as their hopes for current and future generations of Hidalgo and Starr county students. Karina Cerda, Darien Fernández, Miguel García, Lizette Muñoz, Cassandra Orozco, Ronald Tanamachi and Esther Ybarra, who are members of STC’s Student Government Association, represented the student body at Community College Day at the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, February 4. Community College Day was sponsored and organized by the Texas Junior College Student Government Association. The students toured the capitol building, attended a rally and had the opportunity to network with students from across the state. The STC students, who were chaperoned by a delegation of STC administrators, met with: Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles; Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Roma; Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas; and Rep. Fred Brown, R-Bryan.  The meetings allowed students to share their experiences and expectations with lawmakers to help them understand the continually growing role community colleges play in the economic growth and vitality of the districts they serve.  In a related matter, STC leaders have announced that enrollment at the two-county higher education institution approached 22,000 for the spring 2009 semester. See story on enrollment later in this posting. 

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce is going on a “SAFARI” from Thursday, February 26 through Sunday, March 1, at the Edinburg Municipal Park. The Heart of America Carnival will be featured during that week; with a $5 "All-You-Can-Ride" special on February 26. Musical headliners “Little Rob” will perform Friday evening and “DUELO” will perform on Saturday at 7 p.m. Fiesta Edinburg will also feature food, carnival, various music and entertainment. Also, check out the  free “SAFARI” Kidz Zone on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. ($5 parking fee required). Edinburg residents also will be treated to the IBC Bank Fiesta Edinburg “SAFARI” Parade, scheduled for Saturday, February 28, beginning at 10 a.m.  The parade will start at the Hidalgo County Court House. Dedicated IBC Bank employees, as part of the IBC Employee Advisory Board, have contributed to making Fiesta Edinburg a great success for the community, noted Dina Araguz, Edinburg 107 IBC Bank branch manager. For more information on Fiesta Edinburg, please call 956/383-4974. Featured, from left: Enrique García, Salvador Martínez, Josue Ramírez, Aaron Ramírez, Judith Cantú, Dina Araguz, Lizette Cano, Ashley Herrera, Griselda Zambrano, Aaron Galván , and Robert Alaniz. 

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Monitor publisher Frandsen warns City of McAllen about decision by Mayor Cortéz to pull legal notices

 

Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, featured at the podium during the fall 2005 dedication of the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission – the first such state facility built by Texas – continues to work on behalf of Texas’ military veterans and their families. On Thursday, January 22, Flores filed a bill that would provide Texas veterans, who are physically- or mentally-disabled, as a result of military service, with as much as a 100 percent exemption on their home property taxes. "We are pleased that Rep. Flores has carried this extremely important initiative for veterans of this state. This bill is long overdue and we know that Kino has always taken a proactive approach to help veterans," said Emilio De Los Santos, the Veterans Services Director for Hidalgo County. "This bill not only will help veterans of the past, but also veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars." Flores is a U.S. Army veteran. An identical measure, Senate Bill 469 by Sen. John Corona, R-Dallas, was filed on Tuesday, January 13. See related story later in this posting. 

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In an effort to recover local funds spent on federal levee rehabilitation, U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, featured left, on Thursday, January 22, introduced legislation that would enable the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) to reimburse Hidalgo County for expenses incurred. Hinojosa and Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III, featured center, also met on January 22 with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, featured right, to discuss the reimbursement initiative and voice their commitment to repairing the Valley’s levees. Cornyn has introduced similar legislation in the Senate that would reimburse Hidalgo County for its work on federal levee projects. See related story later in this posting. 

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Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas, featured left, on Tuesday, January 20, announced she was retiring at the end of the month as a result of health concerns. She was praised by two area legislators as an inspiration to the region. "I am saddened by the unfortunate, but understandable, retirement of President Cárdenas. She has been an inspiration to me and to countless other people, not only in the Valley, but throughout the state," said Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview.  Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, also noted that "Dr. Cárdenas set a standard for academic excellence and continuous pursuit of self-realization and personal enrichment. During her tenure, Dr. Cárdenas led UT-Pan American’s efforts to further establish the university as a model institution of higher education, serving a highly diverse population and increasing the access to advanced degrees in South Texas." She is featured here, with Dr. Marla Guerra, superintendent for the South Texas Independent School District, at the university in one of her final public ceremonies on Thursday, January 22.  The two leaders signed a new partnership between UTPA and STISD to promote college readiness and success. See related stories on her retirement and on the partnership with South Texas Independent School District later in this posting. 

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Dr. Alejo Salinas, Ph.D., of Edinburg, accepts ties, in the college’s school colors of green and purple, on behalf of his colleagues on the South Texas College Board of Trustees from students, staff, and administration for helping steer the two-county higher education system through a successful 2008. “Last year was a wonderful year for the college with big growth in enrollment, launching our second bachelor’s degree, and kicking off our 15th anniversary celebration, but one thing is clear – none of this would have been possible without the support of the hardest working board of trustees anywhere in Texas,” said Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president, also featured in this photograph. “Dr. Salinas is one of our biggest advocates and has been true to serving the interests of the constituents he represents. We thank him for the countless hours he spends safeguarding public funds and planning for the future of higher education in the Valley.” Salinas is superintendent emeritus for and a clinical lecturer at The University of Texas–Pan American, and former superintendent of Hidalgo I.S.D. He has served STC since 1996. As the District 5 representative on STC’s Board of Trustees, he represents northwest Hidalgo County, Edinburg, north San Juan, and northeast Pharr. “I sincerely thank the college community for this token of appreciation,” said Salinas. “The biggest and best reward for my work is watching our students cross the stage at graduation each May. I am so proud to be part of this dedicated board and look forward to another outstanding year of academic excellence from our students.” 

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce “Chamber Champions” Committee recently honored BBVA Compass Bank as Feature Business of the Month for January, 2009. BBVA is located on 2314 W. University in Edinburg, and may be reached at 956/926-4400. BBVA has been a member with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce for many years, and has always supported community endeavors. They contribute to local scholarships and non-profit organizations, as well as support local businesses. The Chamber Champion’s Committee meets every first Wednesday of the month; to serve on the committee please contact the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956-383-4974. http://www.edinburg.com 

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Women’s Business Center empowering residents with knowledge, contacts, and vision to succeed

In the United States, there are more than 10 million businesses — with 50 percent or more of those firms owned by women – that employ 13 million people and generate nearly $2 trillion in annual revenues, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research in Washington, D.C. In South Texas, the Women’s Business Center (WBC) – headquartered on the third floor of the Wells Fargo Bank, 2852 W. Trenton Road, on the corner of Trenton and McColl roads in Edinburg – is playing a major role in helping ensure that Rio Grande Valley residents are also part of that growing national trend. “The Women’s Business Center is focused on providing services to area women who want to learn more about how to start or expand their companies,” said María “Charo” Mann, the WBC’s chief executive officer. “We feature, free-of-charge, a dedicated staff which can help guide people from all walks of life to their goals. Plus, we offer seminars, presentations, and other special events – often at no charge  – that provide South Texans with direct contact to other professionals who are experts in what it takes to start and expand a successful business.” The local Women’s Business Center has launched an Internet website at http://www.wbc-rgv.org to provide more information to South Texans, or may also be contacted at 618-2828. See lead story later in this posting.

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In today’s world where tons of trash is discarded daily, Edwards Abstract and Title Co. has taken a proactive step to protect the environment and promote recycling in Edinburg. They are among of handful of test sites within the Edinburg business community working with the Edinburg Recycling and Education Center to promote efforts to recycle without the fear of contamination, and at the same time reducing waste to preserve natural resources. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average office worker in the U.S. uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year, equaling to four million tons of copy paper. Recycling one ton of paper saves enough energy to power the average American home for six months, saves 7,000 gallons of water, 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent. The City of Edinburg Recycling Center staff delivered the Clearstream containers to Edwards Abstract and Title Co. branch office located at 3111 W. Freddy González Drive. Featured from left: Mark Peña; Armando Mayorga, Edinburg Recycling Center; Vinnie García; Janie Chapa, Edinburg Recycling Center; Dolly Villarreal; Nancy Lemke; Nora Cano; Susie Mercado; Diana Kaufold; Angela García; and Libby Luis. See story later in this posting.

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The 2008 winners of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2nd Annual Medical Awards Banquet, held on Saturday, November 15, at the Embassy Suites in McAllen, included two Edinburg physicians: Dr. Ben Garza, a family practice doctor, and Dr. Carlos Manrique, an ophthalmologist. The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Filiberto Rodríguez, the first heart surgeon in the Valley. Rodríguez spoke on the positive changes of the medical care in the Valley going back to 1983, when he first arrived. Now, there are so many specialized doctors in the area that residents don’t have to go out of the Valley to seek medical attention or surgery. The event was sponsored by Aetna Insurance, New York Life/Armando Brennan, Manrique Custom Vision Center, Texas HealthSpring, BVAA Compass, Apex, South Texas Health System, IKON and Humana.  Entries were submitted for judging to a committee of medical professionals in Austin. In addition to the two local doctors, other health professionals were recognized for their contributions. From left: Gilda Romero, Hospital Administrator of the McAllen Heart Hospital, Hospital of the Year; Hari Namboodiri, Administrator of Las Palmas Health Care Center, Nursing Home of the Year; Dr. Ben Garza, General Physician of the Year; Jean Calvert of South Texas Behavioral Center, Nurse of the Year; Rose Ramírez, MHCC Vice Chair of Health Issues; Dr. Carlos Manrique of Manrique Custom Vision Center, Specialty Physician of the Year, and Orlando Velásquez, Physician Assistant with Dr. Enrique Griego as Physician Assistant of the Year.

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