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DOJ says ECISD paperwork seeking changes to terms of office, election date, is incomplete, delays action


Leadership Edinburg, sponsored by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, continues to develop its understanding of complicated issues that affect the economy, politics, and goals of the city and school district in the three-time All-America City. Public school finance was one of the major issues that has been reviewed by the group, whose members are featured here during a previous meeting with top Edinburg school district leaders. Leadership Edinburg involves a nine-month program whose members meet on a monthly basis, on different topics, such as government, media, education, and quality-of-life issues. Featured in this portrait are, standing, from left: Estella Macias, Naomi Perales, Jay Flores, Loida Leal, Destiny Campos, Jerry Salazar, Victor Arteaga, Julio Rodríguez, Lupita Cano, and Nora Garza. Seated, from left, are: Mónica Rodríguez, Frank Lara, ECISD Superintendent Gilbert Garza Jr., Aurelio Flores, ECISD assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations, and Dacia Salinas. In a related matter, Aurelio Flores announced on Thursday, March 27, that the school district has received an $86,404 cash dividend from Property Casualty Alliance of Texas (PCAT), the insurance program which provides property and casualty insurance to the school district. See story on the ECISD cash dividend later in this posting.



Retired U.S. Admiral Bobby R. Inman, a national security and international affairs expert, will be the featured speaker in Edinburg on Tuesday, April 1, at the University of Texas-Pan American. Inman’s appearance is part of the fall Global Security Studies and Leadership Speaker Series sponsored by the Integrated Global Knowledge and Understanding Collaboration (IGkNU) at The University of Texas-Pan American. His presentation is free and open to the public. See story later in this posting.



For over 160 years, the Rio Grande Valley has served as an international border between the United States and Mexico. Customary conflicts between the two have led to many historic events in the area, including battles between Hispanic Texans and the Texas Rangers in the early 1900s, where thousands of area residents were killed or wounded by rogue members of the famed Texas Rangers. Kirby Warnock, the producer of the award-winning PBS documentary “Return to Giant”, will be at South Texas College in McAllen on Saturday, April 5, to talk about his new documentary, “Border Bandits,” which takes a new look at a very old incident. In 1915 a group of Mexican banditos raided the McAllen Ranch, one of the largest in the area. The next day a group of Texas Rangers supposedly arrived and eliminated the perpetrators. However, the real story is not as tidy as it has been portrayed. Roland Warnock, a 19-year-old cowboy working on the Guadalupe Ranch near present-day Edinburg, witnessed two of these killings when he saw Texas Rangers from Company D shoot two unarmed men in the back and leave their bodies by the side of the road. See story later in this posting.



Mark G. Yudoff, chancellor of The University of Texas System, which includes UT-Pan American, has been appointed president of The University of California. The appointment will be effective this summer, with the exact date to be determined. H. Scott Caven, Jr., chairman of the UT Board of Regents, on Thursday, March 27, said the board would make finding a successor to Yudof a top priority, but added that he was confident the system would continue to operate efficiently and deliver academic excellence with its outstanding leadership team in place. The board will conduct a national search for a replacement, with details on the process to be announced at a later date. See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Hinojosa criticizes FEMA for ignoring Valley victims following major wildfires in Hidalgo County


Work continued on Thursday, March 20 on the southern face of Edinburg City Hall, which is expected to be open by May, although it may not be until mid-summer before an old city hall annex, located north of the new facility, is demolished, and Kuhn Street is extended to serve the new complex. The groundbreaking for the 42,000-square-foot facility, located at 412 West McIntyre, took place in May 2006. It is designed to triple the amount of space utilized by city employees at the current City Hall. The project is expected to cost $6.65 million and will be funded through Certificate of Obligation Bonds. Due to construction, the section of McIntyre Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue will be permanently closed. The existing city hall will be converted into a larger headquarters for the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department.



An aerial photograph taken on Wednesday, March 19, showed smoke from one of the wildfires that eventually consumed more than 26,000 acres in the ranch country north of Edinburg. Sparks from a utility line are being blamed for starting the initial fire, which was fueled by dry pastures, then spread by sustain winds approaching 50 miles per hour throughout that day and evening. Unofficial estimates predict the cost of the fires will approach $1 million. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Thursday, March 21, criticized the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) for not doing enough to financially help victims of the wildfires. See lead story later in this posting.



Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, recently presented a $1,800 check to the Raindrop Room, which is sponsored and maintained by the Upper Valley Community Partners Board, Inc. The Raindrop Room in Weslaco was established as part of the Rainbow Room in McAllen, a local charity organization whose mission is to provide Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers the additional resources, products, tools, training and support services necessary to accomplish this goal. The vision of this organization is: “Community partners will initiate, develop, and support projects that enable CPS caseworkers to make the most positive impact possible on the victims of child abuse and neglect in Texas Counties and on those who are at risk”. Martínez organized a charity event in November 2007 to benefit various charity organizations in the Rio Grande Valley. Among those charities that benefited from the event was the Raindrop Room. The donation received will be used to restock the room with all new items for CPS clients such as diapers, baby formula, personal hygiene items, clothing and shoes. Featured, front row from left are: caseworkers Jovita Shives and Angie Romo; Martínez; Alicia de León, Rainbow Room coordinator; and Cynthia Bocanegra of Edinburg, the board president. From left, back row, are: Norma Reyes, caseworker; Rosie López, administrative assistant II; Johnny Rodríguez of Edinburg, a board member; Betsy Sinnett, program director; Junior Cordero and Ene Prado, board members; Georgina Morales, CPS director Region 11; and Marina Yzaguirre, program administrator.

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Hidalgo County Road Builders negotiates $46.3 million contract to work on Hidalgo County Loop project for local Regional Mobility Authority


Mayor Pro Tem Alma Garza and Johnny Rodríguez, her opponent in the Saturday, May 10 city council elections, maintained a positive, friendly tone on Wednesday, March 12, when both candidates showed up late that morning at Edinburg City Hall to see whose name will be placed first on the ballot for their seat. Staff members for the City Secretary drew the names with the candidates looking on as witnesses. Garza will have her name first on the ballot. In the second race, challenger Leonel Guerrero’s name will be first on the ballot in his race against Councilmember Gene Espinoza. Guerrero also attended the drawing, which was open to the public. Espinoza was unable to attend due to other important business. Garza and Rodríguez are vying for the Place 4 city council post, while Guerrero and Espinoza are seeking the Place 3 seat.



Gerry Pate, standing left, managing general partner with Hidalgo County Road Builders, a private coalition, has negotiated a $46.3 million contract with the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority – a governmental entity – to provide pre-construction services in preparation for the building of major portions of the $645 million Hidalgo County Loop, which will be designed to shuttle heavy commercial truck traffic coming to and from the region. Services included in the agreement include advance planning, environmental clearance, preliminary and final design, right-of-way acquisition services. The contract was approved on Thursday, February 28. HCRB is contracted to complete the pre-construction services within 18 months and deliver to the RMA board a guaranteed maximum price for the completion, including construction of a major portion of the loop project by 2013. The agreement is expected to be executed within the next week. Also featured with Pate is Jacinto Garza, the project engineer. Both men were addressing the RMA board during the organization’s meeting in Weslaco on Thursday, February 28. See lead story later in this posting.



Bryant Morrison, a faculty member at the University of Texas-Pan American, addressed the Edinburg School Board on Tuesday, March 11, to announce the formation of Yes4Kids, a political action committee that will raise money to help pass a two propositions relating to the construction and renovation of schools in the district. The election will be held on Saturday, March 10. were among some of the Yes4Kids members who made their pitch before the Edinburg school board during the trustees’ regularly bimonthly meeting on Tuesday, March 11. Also at the meeting were opponents of the bond election, who are concerned that, with the U.S. economy slowing down – possibly already in an economic recession – now is not the time for local taxpayers to go into long-term debt by passing bond issues. But Morrison and other bond proposals believe otherwise. “We don’t need their money, we need their support and we need the community discussing the pros and cons of the bond. The more people talk, the more they will see that there is really no debate here,” Morrison said. “When they get the information, they will see we will be saving money, we will get a bigger bang for the bank, and we will relieve the district from some of the bond debt they already have.” See story later in this posting.



Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, recently presented a $500 check to Women Together/Mujeres Unidas, a local charity organization whose vision is to end violence so that individuals may live without fear, abuse or oppression. The mission of Women Together/Mujeres Unidas is to provide shelter and support services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and their families. Martínez organized a charity event in November 2007 to benefit various charity organizations in the Rio Grande Valley. Among those charities that benefited from the event was Women Together/Mujeres Unidas. Since 1978 Women Together/Mujeres Unidas has worked to end domestic violence and sexual assault in Hidalgo and Starr Counties. Women Together/Mujeres Unidas have three locations, two in McAllen and one in Weslaco. They provide education, awareness and prevention programs to the communities. Featured with the Mid-Valley lawmaker is Marlene Ramírez, Outreach Advocate for Women Together/Mujeres Unidas in front of Martínez’ district office in Weslaco.

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Rep. Peña defeats Eddie Sáenz in Democratic Party rematch, but remains coy about voting for reelection of Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, a Republican


Former President Bill Clinton, flanked by Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes (left) and Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen (no relation), drives a point about his wife’s (Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York) deep roots with Valley voters. The former president addressed hundreds of area residents during a campaign rally on Monday, March 3, in the University of Texas-Pan American Fieldhouse. He portrayed the Republican Party as the party of the wealthy and that President Bush is out-of-touch with average Americans. His wife, though, was nothing like the ruling class, he said. “You want a president…who every single day won’t get carried away driving around in a bulletproof vehicle, flying around on Air Force One and being told you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Clinton said. “All you are as president is the most fortunate hired hand on the face of the earth. She (Hillary) knows that.” Sen. Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, are in a tight race to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president later this summer. See story later in this posting.



Supporters of Sen. Barack Obama, including Edinburg school board member Robert Peña, Jr., seen here with the presidential candidate in Edinburg on February 22, remain confident about the Illinois Democrat’s showing in Texas on Tuesday, March 4. According to the Obama campaign, their projections show that Obama will take the majority of party delegates in Texas, which are just as important as the popular vote, which was won by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York. The Texans for Obama website on Thursday, March 6, stated that the organization “strategically focused our resources on building a massive grassroots operation that would win the caucuses overwhelmingly, and our gamble apparently has paid off. The current projections show us winning the caucuses 55 percent to 45 percent.”



Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, points with joy to a television monitor Tuesday night, March 4, that showed news accounts confirming his victory over Eddie Sáenz for a fourth two-year term as state representative for House District 40, which includes most of Edinburg. Peña and his many supporters were gathered at Treviño’s Restaurant in north Edinburg for the victory party. According to unofficial totals posted Wednesday, March 5, by the Hidalgo County Elections Department, Peña received 9,839 votes compared with 8,761 votes for Sáenz – or 52.9 percent of the vote for Peña compared with 47.10 percent of the vote for Sáenz. There is no Republican opponent, so Peña’s party primary victory sealed his reelection. See lead story later in this posting.



Elva Jackson Garza, an Edinburg community and business leader, was recently inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame in recognition of her achievements and major contributions to deep South Texas. Two highlights of her distinguished work on behalf of the region include her service as board member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation – the jobs-creation arm of t he Edinburg City Council – and her leadership as chairman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Jackson Garza, featured left, receives the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame commemorative award from Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sánchez as her mother, María Sidia Gracia Jackson, proudly looks on. See story later in this posting.



Author of Tejano Roots Dan Arellano meets with South Texas College student Jessica Mirelez during the NACCS Tejas Regional Conference Cultural Night recently held at the McAllen Convention Center. With more than 400 attendees from across the Rio Grande Valley, Texas and the nation, the event offered a forum for the open exchange of ideas about the status and future opportunities for Mexican-Americans, focusing sharply on the need for expanded Mexican-American history and education opportunities. “This event has been highly energizing,” said María Ramírez, an instructor with Ohlone Community College out of California. “It has been terrific to connect with people from different generations. I know that younger Mexican-Americans will keep the missing chapters of our history alive and that is very exciting. I have been so impressed with the energy and interest in Mexican-American heritage and history from this community. It has been a remarkable experience.” See story later in this posting.

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Titans of the Texas Legislature