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.
DOJ says ECISD paperwork seeking changes to terms of office, election date, is incomplete, delays action
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legal paperwork submitted by the Edinburg school district requesting federal permission to increase the terms of office for all school board members and to change the month of school trustee elections is incomplete, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which prevents those two major election changes from going into effect.
Any change affecting elections in Texas must receive pre-clearance (approval) from the U.S. Department of Justice. If pre-clearance is not issued by the DOJ, the federal government, through the U.S. Attorney General, can go to court to block the proposed changes.
The term of office is the period of time during which an elected position is held.
Currently, the term of office for all Edinburg school board members is for three years, and elections for Edinburg school board members are held in May, often in conjunction with Edinburg city council elections.
But a divided Edinburg school board, on a 4-3 vote, on December 11 voted to increase the terms of office, in a staggered manner, for all trustees to four years, and to change the month for trustee elections to November.
Those two changes, if allowed by the federal government, would go into effect immediately.
The announcement by the DOJ was contained in a March 12 letter sent to Edinburg superintendent Gilbert Garza, Jr. by Christopher Coates, Acting Chief, Voting Section, Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
In his letter, Coates said a portion of the school district’s plan did not include participation by trustees Greg García, Jr. and Robert Peña, Jr. in a proposed drawing of lots that would have affected the length of their terms differently than the terms of the other five school board members.
García, Peña and fellow trustee Jaime Chavana had opposed the two major election changes, which were approved on December 11 by board president Carmen González, vice-president Omar Palacios, secretary Ciro Treviño, and trustee David Torres.
García, Peña and Chavana had contended, among numerous other points, that residents in the school district should have been given the chance to vote on such sweeping changes, instead of authorizing the alterations through the resolution approved on December 11 by the majority of the school board.
González, Palacios, and Torres agreed with public statements made by Treviño during the December 11 school board meeting that the changes, and the way they were implemented, were required by state law, regardless of their personal viewpoints. In addition, they noted that they were following the legal advice of school board attorney Jacques Treviño (no relation to Ciro Treviño).
But the latest development in the political drama only served to show that the local dispute remains unresolved.
“We have…been informed that Trustees for Posts 4 and 5…have not yet drawn to determine the election cycle for each office,” wrote DOJ’s Coates. “Consequently, the implementation schedule for the change in trustee terms of office and the change in the stagger of terms for posts 4 and 5 are not yet ripe for review by the (U.S.) Attorney General (with certain limited exceptions not applicable here).”
Consequently, “it would be inappropriate for the Attorney General to make a determination concerning these changes now,” Coates continued. “When these changes are formally adopted, pre-clearance under Section 5 (of the Voting Rights Act) should be sought.”
Coates added that even if the federal government, through the Attorney General, eventually does not oppose any portions of the school board’s plan, the local election changes can still be challenged in court.
“We note that Section 5 (of the Voting Rights Act) provides that the failure of the Attorney General to object does not bar subsequent litigation to enjoin (prohibit) the enforcement of the changes,” Coates added.
Senate Bill 670
The local controversy stems from a state law created by Senate Bill 670 last spring, which authorized dozens of school boards in Texas, including Edinburg, to increase the terms of office to four years, and change the date of the election to November via a resolution.
That legislation, according to its author, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, was filed in 2007 in order to clear up confusion from a previous law that was approved in 2006 by state lawmakers.
Part of the intent of SB 670 was to make it more cost-effective for school districts to conduct their trustees’ elections by pooling resources with their respective county elections departments. Also, because general elections in November involve national and statewide elections, school board elections in November also should draw higher voter participation than in May.
The three trustees who opposed the majority’s plan contended SB 670 was not mandatory, and the legislative intent was never to allow school board trustees to increase political power without the consent of local voters.
Under the school board plan submitted to DOJ, board president González and board secretary Treviño would see their current three-year terms extended by six-months until the November election, and then, they (or their successors) would begin serving the new four-year terms.
Both González and Treviño have reportedly stated they plan to seek reelection.
Board vice-president Omar Palacios, trustee David Torres, and trustee Chavana, would see their current terms, which expire in May 2009, extended through November 2010. Thereafter, they (or their successors), would begin four-year terms.
By contrast, trustees García and Peña (or their successors) would face a different set of circumstances.
One of those two men would have to serve a three-and-a-half year term, and the other would serve a five-year term, before the four-year terms would go into effect for them (or their successors).
García and Peña were asked under the controversial school board plan to draw lots to see which one would first get the three-and-a-half year term, and which one would first get the five-year term.
However, neither trustee participated in two attempted drawings in December designed to determine which one would get the three-and-a-half year term and which one would get the five-year term.
The drawing of lots for García and Peña was coordinated by the superintendent and by the school attorney.
However, the drawing of lots was neither publicly called nor scheduled during any Edinburg school board meeting, nor was an agenda publicly posted by the school district administration notifying residents of the plan to draw lots.
Facing a December 31 deadline imposed by SB 670, Edinburg school district administrators sent the legal paperwork seeking the DOJ pre-clearance for the election changes, but without the participation by García and Peña.
That omission meant the legal paperwork was incomplete, the DOJ official ruled.
Text of DOJ letter
The letter from Coates follows verbatim:
March 12, 2008
Mr. Gilbert Garza, Jr.
Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District
411 North 8th Street
Edinburg, Texas 78540
Dear Mr. Garza:
This refers to the change in date of the general election from the May uniform election date of each year to the November uniform election date of even-numbered years, the change in trustee terms of office from three years to four years, the change in the stagger of trustee elections, and the implementation schedule, for Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District in Hidalgo County, Texas, submitted to the Attorney General pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973c. We received your submission on January 14, 2008; supplemental information was received through February 13, 2008.
With respect to the general election date change and the change in trustee terms of office, we understand that state law (Chapter 5, (H.B. 1)(2006) requires trustee elections in districts without the option of a municipal election partner to be conducted jointly with the county in November and, therefore, requires the adjustment of the terms of office of trustees to conform with the new election date. Chapter 5 received the requisite Section 5 pre-clearance on July 19, 2006. Therefore, the District exercised no discretion in changing the election date and extending trustee terms of office. Accordingly, no further determination by the Attorney General is required or appropriate under Section 5. See Procedures for the Administration of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (28 C.F.R. 51.35).
We have also been informed that Trustees for Posts 4 and 5 (a.k.a Places “A” and “B”) have not yet been drawn to determine the election cycle for each office. Consequently, the implementation schedule for the change in trustee terms of office and change in the stagger of terms for posts 4 and 5 are not yet final. Proposed changes which are not final enacted or capable of administration are not ripe for review by the Attorney General (with certain limited exceptions not applicable here). Accordingly, it would be inappropriate for the Attorney General to make a determination concerning these changes now. See Procedures for the Administration of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (28 C.F.R. 51.22(a) and 51.35). When these changes are formally adopted, pre-clearance under Section 5 should be sought. Refer to File No. 2008-0162 in any response to this letter so that your correspondence will be channeled properly.
The Attorney General does not interpose any objection to the remaining specified changes. However, we note that Section 5 expressly provides that the failure of the Attorney General to object does not bar subsequent litigation to enjoin the enforcement of the changes. Procedures for the Administration of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (28 C.F.R. 51.41).
Acting Chief, Voting Section
Mr. Robert Peña, Trustee
Mr. Gregory García, Trustee
Mr. Jaime Chavana, Trustee
Bill analysis of SB 670
The following summary of Senate Bill 670, provided by the Senate Research Center, an arm of the Texas Senate, follows:
AUTHOR’S / SPONSOR’S STATEMENT OF INTENT
H.B. 1, 79th Legislature, Third Called Session, mandated that school districts hold joint elections with a municipality, county, or the state. This will require 50 to 70 school districts to change from May to November elections, either because they are not part of a municipality with a May election, or because the district is not located in a municipality and therefore, will have to join with the county or state elections. Alief ISD, located in part within the Houston city limits, currently holds elections each May, and about one-third of the trustees are elected to the school board each year for three-year terms. Because the district is required to change to a November election, trustees will be running for election in even-numbered presidential and non-presidential years and in odd-numbered Houston city election years. This would raise the costs of the elections for Alief ISD.
S.B. 670 authorizes a school district’s board of trustees to adopt a resolution changing the length of the terms of its trustees not later than December 31, 2007, to address the rising costs of multiple elections and the confusion among voter precincts.
This bill does not expressly grant any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, institution, or agency.
SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS
SECTION 1. Amends Section 11.059, Education Code, by adding Subsection (e), as follows:
(e) Authorizes the board of trustees of a school district to adopt a resolution changing the length of the terms of its trustees not later than December 31, 2007. Requires the resolution to provide for a term of either three or four years and to specify the manner in which the transition from the length of the former term to the modified term is made. Requires the transition to begin with the first regular election for trustees that occurs after January 1, 2008, and requires that a trustee who serves on that date serve the remainder of that term. Provides that this subsection expires January 1, 2013.
SECTION 2. Effective date: upon passage or September 1, 2007.
“Yes4Kids” PAC in Edinburg to host rally on Monday, March 31, at ECHO to support bonds
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
“Yes4Kids”, a single purpose political action committee (PAC) which supports the passage of two major school construction bond propositions facing Edinburg voters on May 10, will be hosting a kick-off rally on Monday, March 31, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the ECHO Hotel.
The event is free, and open to the public.
From the initial reaction to the PAC’s invitations, attendance is expected to be high with the public’s supportive reaction to the committee growing daily, said organizers, who added that membership in the PAC is increasing, and responses to the PAC’s activities have been strongly positive.
“Discussion of the district’s needs, the anticipated financial arrangement for the bond, and how the new political structure, including the public for comments, and direction will be discussed briefly at the kick-off,” said Bryant Morrison, a co-chairman of the PAC. “Quite a few political leaders will be available, and the public will have a chance to meet and speak with them in an arena more conducive to open communication rather than a structured, official forum.”
The bond election issues involve the following measures:
Proposition 1 includes building four (4) elementary schools, two (2) middle schools; converting Harwell Middle School into a fourth high school; three (3) multi-purpose fine arts centers at each of the existing high schools; Brewster School addition/renovations, and land acquisition for a total of $111,920,000.
Proposition II includes $37,675,000 of 1998 Lease Purchase Bonds to be converted into Series 2008 voter authorized IFA supported bonds.
IFA means Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA), which is a state fund available to help qualified school districts such as Edinburg receive help in paying for construction of new campuses.
IFA is distributed through grants, most of which go to districts with low property wealth.
“The purpose of the PAC is to first support the bond effort that is growing geometrically,” said Morrison, a lecturer of history and philosophy at the University of Texas-Pan American. “The second and probably more long lasting purpose is to re-instill the spirit of civic participation in the local community.”
Morrison believes the local PAC, a rarity in the area, provides school district constituents from all walks of life the opportunity to play a major role in the upcoming election.
“Instead of a few political players hording power and dictating to the community at large, the PAC’s focus will be to have the citizenry as a collective communicate its beliefs and desires to our leaders,” he said. “It will then be up the elected leaders to seek ways of accomplishing what the public wills.”
The PAC is using both traditional and new media to get its message out.
It has created a website – http://www.Edinburgyes4kids.com – that organizers say has received 3,500 views on the Internet in its first two weeks, even with minimal public advertising, Morrison said.
According to http://www.edinburgyes4kids.com, the local school district’s needs are great. The pro-bonds advocates note that:
• The Edinburg school district currently is using 179 portable buildings;
• The student to teacher ratio is over the state limit;
• There are no plans to build more school facilities;
• A needs assessment study showed that ECISD needed six new elementary, two new middle, and one new high school; and
• Renovations are required at the current three high schools.
“The PAC appears to be filling a vacuum in the public’s participation in political dialogue,” said Dr. Francisco J. Guajardo, co-chairman of Just4Kids.
Guajardo is an assistant professor and department coordinator for Educational Leadership at UT-Pan American.
“The PAC has currently raised almost half of its intended funding goal of $20,000, with more pledges coming in daily,” Guajardo reported.
Opposition so far is not as organized or visible as the Just4Kids PAC.
However, there were contrary viewpoints by two area residents that surfaced during a recent public comment forum before the Edinburg school board – issues that PAC leaders say have been addressed.
Among the concerns raised by opponents of the bond election include warnings 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.
Also, critics assert, aspects of Proposition 1 that would include about $20 million to add multi-purpose fine arts facilities at the district’s three high schools don’t focus entirely on academics.
Yes4Kids leaders dispute that belief, pointing out that the fine arts facilities would be used for many academic purposes, and enhancing fine arts in the school district would build “the creative infrastructure” that is lacking for thousands of students.
Some, but not all of the Just4Kids PAC members, were part of a Citizens’ Facilities Committee that was appointed by the Edinburg school board in August 2007.
The role of the facilities committee was to evaluate if, and where, new campuses were needed, according to superintendent Gilbert Garza, Jr.
After numerous meetings, which included campus visitations, the committee presented their findings and recommendations to trustees at a board workshop held on February 6, 2008. The board voted to place the bond issues on the May 10 ballot.
“The message of the PAC has a clear tone to it and truth rings clear when people hear it: passing the bonds keeps the tax rate lower, the state reimbursement of more than half the cost is very promising, and the Bond Oversight Committee is committed to monitoring and reporting on all aspects of the construction phase,” Morrison said. “The need is obvious and the PAC is filling a niche in community involvement that has been lacking in Edinburg in recent history.”
The Monday, March 31 rally “could prove to be the dawn of a new era in Edinburg,” Morrison predicted, inviting school district constituents “to witness its start.”
UT-Pan American to increase tuition and fees for next two academic years
By SANDRA GUZMÁN
The University of Texas-Pan American remains one of the most affordable academic institutions in The University of Texas System in spite of the increase in tuition and fees approved by the UT System Board of Regents Wednesday, March 26.
“UTPA tuition and fees are well below the state and national averages for academic institutions, allowing UTPA to remain an excellent value in the UT System and Texas,” UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas said.
The Board of Regents formally approved an increase in tuition and fees for the next two academic years (2008-2009 and 2009-2010) for the UT System’s campuses. The action came following a review of tuition and fee proposals submitted to the regents by each campus earlier this month.
“We believe these modest increases in tuition and fee rates will go a long way toward furthering excellence at our campuses,” said Regents’ Chairman H. Scott Caven, Jr. “The Board remains committed to ensuring an affordable and quality education for our students, but at the same time we must continue to enhance our operations and programs to keep our institutions competitive in the higher education arena and ever-changing global environment.”
With the approval, UTPA’s tuition and fees for 15 semester credit hours will increase 6.09 percent in fall 2008 for a cost of $2,612, making it one of the most budget-friendly institutions in the UT System. In fall 2009, the tuition and fees are expected to rise 5.74 percent for a cost of $2,762 a semester. In fall 2007, tuition and fees for a full-time student were $2,462.
In December 2007, the UT System Board of Regents limited tuition and fee increases per semester in each year of the tuition and fee plan to a maximum of 4.95 percent, or $300 a year, whichever is greater. A minimum of 20 percent of these increases will be used for student financial aid. Some UT System institutions were allowed to exceed the cap to accommodate student-initiated fees that had already been approved by students when the regents issued their directive. UTPA along with several other UT institutions met the allowable increase.
Elaine Rivera, director of the UTPA Office of Student Financial Services, said financial aid will be available to alleviate the impact of tuition and fee increases on students. More than 12,000 students receive financial aid at UTPA she said.
“Fortunately, UTPA has many financial aid programs to assist our students. In addition to the various state and federal grant programs, UTPA is proud to offer the UTPAdvantage to help defray costs for our neediest of students. Under the UTPAdvantage Program, students who meet the criteria will pay zero out-of-pocket expenses for tuition and fees,” Rivera said.
The UTPAdvantage is a “free tuition and fees” guarantee for economically disadvantaged students. Qualified students will have all tuition and fees for fall and spring semesters covered by some form of grant or scholarship. For 2009, the annual income limit to qualify will be increased from $25,000 to $30,000, and the deadline to apply is Tuesday, April 1.
During the 2007 fiscal year, UTPA awarded more than $102 million in financial aid funds, with approximately 60 percent in the form of scholarships and grants.
In addition to UTPAdvantage, the University currently caps the charges for designated tuition at 14 semester credit hours, which means students enrolling in course loads of 15 or more hours are charged for designated tuition as if they were enrolled for 14 hours. The intention of this policy is to encourage students to take larger course loads, and in turn, promote timely graduation.
Since the 14-hour cap was put in place in 2004, the percentage of undergraduates attempting course loads over 14 hours has increased from 23.5 percent in fall 2004 to 29.6 percent in fall 2007.
A 22-member Cost of Education Committee, made up of students, administrators, faculty and a parent, developed the UTPA tuition and fee proposal submitted to the Board of Regents. The committee was charged with reviewing all fee requests submitted by the University departments and made recommendations to the president.
To learn more about financial aid opportunities at UTPA, visit http://portal.utpa.edu/utpa_main/dess_home/sfs_home or call 956/381-2501.
For more information on UTPA’s and other UT System campus approved proposals visit http://www.utsystem.edu/affordability/.
Admiral Inman, former CIA deputy director, to speak at UT-Pan American on April 1 on national security
By GAIL FAGAN
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 continues on Tuesday, April 1 with a presentation by Admiral Bobby R. Inman, newly appointed co-chair of the Commission on Cyber Security.
Inman, who served in the U.S. Navy for more than 30 years retiring with the rank of Admiral, is a former National Security Agency director and a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. His academic career includes degrees from The University of Texas at Austin and the National War College and serving as an adjunct professor at UT Austin since 1987 and as interim dean of the LBJ School for Public Affairs in 2005.
Currently he is a tenured professor of the Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair in National Policy at UT Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Inman is also chairman and a managing partner of Gefinor Ventures, where since 1990 he has managed the investment in start-up technology companies.
Inman will speak at 5:30 p.m. in Room 1.102 of the UTPA Education Complex. While reservations are not required, seating is limited.
As the co-chair of the new 20-member Commission on Cyber Security, Inman will draw upon his 18 years of experience in the investigation of start-up technologies within privately-held companies to advise the next president (44th) of the United States on updated strategies to counter national security challenges posed by cyber-security threats.
“Admiral Inman is an internationally recognized expert in merging technologies and cyber security, one of the most neglected issues locally and nationwide. His unprecedented visit to UTPA provides an opportunity for not only students but faculty members and teachers, local government officials, law enforcement and intelligence agency employees or any concerned community member to learn about the diversity of national security issues and impact of technology in policy and decision making processes,” Nick Weimer, IGkNU manager, said.
Created under a five-year, $2.5 million federal grant from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to establish an Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence at UTPA, IGkNU’s role is to educate students with the critical thinking and other necessary skills to become the next generation of not only national security and intelligence leaders but leaders in all sectors of the global economy at large. IGkNu is administered under the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
For more information, contact Vicky Castellano at 956/292-7829.
South Texas College to present groundbreaking documentary “Border Bandits” featuring Edinburg area ranch on Saturday, April 5
By CINDY Y. MARTINEZ
Author and director Kirby Warnock will be at South Texas College for two presentations of his groundbreaking documentary “Border Bandits.” The presentations will be at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, April 5, in the Pecan Campus auditorium. Presentations will be followed by a question and answer session.
The auditorium is located in the Administration Building, Room D-103, which fronts Pecan Blvd.
The producers of the award winning PBS documentary “Return to Giant” along with Warmock’s grandson, Kirby Warmock, produced the documentary. “Border Bandits” has received great reviews from The New York Times and media around Texas.
Thanks to those who keep telling stories of the old days, the history of the Rio Grande Valley has been able to survive time. One of these primary sources is Roland Warnock, a 19- year-old cowboy who worked on the Guadalupe Ranch near present-day Edinburg. He witnessed the killings of two bandits by the Texas Rangers and saw how James McAllen single-handedly defended his ranch against a band of 14 banditos.
The documentary re-enacts the events as the actual voice of Roland Warrock narrates what happened in 1915.
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.
For more information about the showings, contact Victor Gomez at email@example.com.
Border Bandits Synopsis
From the producer of the award-winning PBS documentary Return to Giant comes 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. The effects of these killings by the Rangers are being felt in south Texas some 80 years later. This single incident brings into play much of the roots of the distrust between Mexicans and the Rangers, as well as the continued friction between Hispanics and Anglos in Texas.
An important and moving story, Border Bandits was produced and directed by Kirby Warnock, the grandson of Roland Warnock, and features the actual voice of Roland Warnock as he describes the events of 1915. In 1974, he sat down with his grandson and dictated the entire story to him on a reel-to-reel tape recorder for Baylor University’s oral history program. The younger Warnock kept the tapes, then thirty years later digitized them and placed them in this documentary, with re-enactors portraying the events described by Roland Warnock. Unlike other documentaries that rely on voice talent to read letters or journals, Border Bandits contains the actual voice of the primary source of information, Roland Warnock, lending it an air of authenticity unmatched in most documentaries.
Re-enactment scenes were filmed at Old City Park in Dallas, and Warnock’s family ranch near Fort Stockton, Texas. Narration for the film is provided by Jon Dillon, the well-known radio personality for KZPS, 92.5 FM in Dallas, Texas.
Because of its Hispanic influences, the film demanded Mexican-themed music, but the only problem was that Kirby did not speak Spanish and was not totally familiar with Tex-Mex music, save for the cojunto radio stations he heard growing up. Faced with this dilemma, he went back to his roots—rock and roll.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the Eagles’ album, Desperado, so I contacted Don Henley and asked him if we could do a Spanish version of the title song. He gave us permission and basically said that it would be no problem for him to get us the clearances,” recalls Warnock. For the performers, he “stumbled” across The Ramirez Family, an all-female mariachi band from Odessa, Texas. “A close friend took me to lunch at a restaurant in Midland, and The Ramirez Family was performing there. I had never heard those Tex-Mex sounds coming out of a female band before, and I was immediately captivated.” Warnock tracked down Betty Ramirez, the leader, and arranged for them to record “Desperado” in Spanish for the soundtrack. The result is a haunting score of a familiar rock standard, sung in Spanish by female voices.
For more information on upcoming screenings, bookmark this site, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the story that inspired the film, from the book Texas Cowboy, available for $11.50 per copy (includes postage and handling). Trans-Pecos Productions, P.O. Box 4124, Dallas, TX 75208.
More information, including a movie trailer, is available for viewing at:http://www.borderbanditsmovie.com/
Human Trafficking Conference on human rights violations set for South Texas College April 2 – 4
By CINDY Y. MARTÍNEZ
South Texas College’s Women’s Studies Committee is hosting its second annual Human Trafficking Conference at its Pecan Campus in McAllen, TX from Wednesday, April 2 through Friday, April 4, 2008. The goal of the conference is to address and question the many aspects of the violation of human rights.
The United States and Mexico have joined to bring the ‘Across the Border’ art exhibition. An opening reception will be held on April 2 from 5 p.m to 7 p.m. in the Library of the Pecan Campus in McAllen, Texas. The art exhibition is created to focus on human rights topics including sex trafficking and immigration. Local and international artists submit their work to be displayed in the traveling exhibit.
“The goal of the exhibition is that attendees will walk away with a better understanding of the emotional, physical and spiritual impact that human trafficking has on its victims,” said Richard Lubben, chair of STC’s Communications and Creative Arts Department.
The exhibition has become so popular that it has been divided among four gallery spaces in the U.S. and Mexico. The Progresso Art Gallery in Progreso, Mexico is having an opening reception on April 18, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will display the exhibit from April 17 to May 2, 2008.
The exhibit will then travel to the Universidad de Monterrey for its opening reception on April 21 from 6-8 p.m. The exhibit will be on display from April 21-May 2 at the university.
The conference has been a success in the past and continues to attract top scholars and leaders in the field of Human Trafficking.
Persons interested in attending the exhibition or have additional questions contact Richard Lubben at email@example.com.
For additional information on the conference contact Jennifer Bryson Clark at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a copy of the conference agenda visit http://www.southtexascollege.edu/womens_studies/forms/AGENDA%20FINAL%2008.htm.
Edinburg construction begins 2008 with permits issued for than $5 million in work during January
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Total construction activities in Edinburg in January 2008 totaled more than $5 million, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, with new single-family homes leading the way during the first month of the new year.
The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.
It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Joe Ochoa, former Mayor Richard García, who serves as board president, Fred Palacios, Dr. Glenn E. Martínez, Ph.D., and Elias Longoria, Jr.
The construction figures include the value of everything from installing plumbing to building the structures, but not the price of the lots.
Also, the city figures does not include the value of any construction work being conducted at the University of Texas-Pan American.
In January, building permits were issued for the construction of 33 single-family homes, valued at more than $3.1 million, while commercial buildings worth more than $1.4 million, not including multi-family residences, began to go up in January.
There were no building permits issued in January 2008 for multi-family homes, which include duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and apartment buildings with five or more units.
In January 2008, total construction in Edinburg was reported at $5,154,704, compared with $42,737,647 in January 2007.
The much-higher January 2007 figures reflected the issuance of building permits for a number of major commercial construction projects in the city, including a significant expansion of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance.
In January 2008, residential construction – work done on single-family homes – reached $3,148,000, compared with $4,471,020 in January 2007.
Also in January 2008, work was authorized for alterations, valued at $392,212, on single-family residences, compared with alterations, valued at $3,464,000, on single-family homes in January 2007.
In January 2008, the value of new commercial construction – not counting government facilities or churches – reached $1,411,200, compared with $33,202,000 in January 2007.
Also in January 2008, work was authorized for alterations, valued at $203,392, on commercial structures, compared with alterations, valued at $385,327, on commercial structures in January 2007.
Although there was no construction begun in January 2008 for multi-family homes, in January 2007, building permits were issued for the construction of multi-family homes valued at $894,000.
No new construction was authorized in January 2008 and in January 2007 for non-taxable structures, such as government facilities and churches – but not including UT-Pan American construction.
However, in January 2008, work was authorized for alterations valued at $10,000 on non-taxable structures, compared with alterations valued at $3,464,000 on non-taxable structures in January 2007.
What are building permits?
The values of the construction are listed in building permits issued by the city’s Code Enforcement Division.
Building permits are permits taken out in order to allow excavation and to protect public safety.
Building permits represent the estimated cost of construction, not the selling price.
The building permits do not include the price of the lot.
A start in construction is defined as the beginning of excavation of the foundation for the building.
A building permit is permission issued by a city’s planning department to oversee and approve any changes to structures.
They are documents designed to guarantee that any construction work, from remodeling to demolition to building a new home or business facility, meets the city’s building codes.
Most valuable projects
Jeff Radesi received a building permit for the most valuable construction project in January 2008.
That permit, for work valued at $450,000, was issued for a commercial facility, located at 437 E. Trenton Road, which will be part of The Shoppes at the Rio Grande Valley outdoor mall.
Radesi also received a building permit for the second- and third-most valuable projects, also located at The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley.
He was issued a building permit for a commercial facility, valued at $275,000, located at 427 E. Trenton Road, and a commercial facility, valued at $250,000, located at 449 E. Trenton Road.
The most valuable home authorized for construction in January 2008 is being built at 3217 Page Avenue in the West Meadows Subdivision. Valued at $180,000, the building permit was issued to Guadalupe I. Peña.
In addition to the commercial facilities being built by Radesi, there were two other projects valued at $100,000 or more authorized for construction in January 2008.
Radesi was also issued a building permit for a commercial facility, valued at $150,000, located at 423 E. Trenton Road in The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley.
Alex Maheshwari was issued a building permit for construction of a commercial facility, valued at $125,000, located 2105 Jackson Creek Avenue.
Highlights of construction in January 2008 of single family homes valued at $100,000 or more include:
•Guadalupe I. Peña, 3217 Page Avenue ($180,000);
•Thomas Sanford, 3250 Clubhouse Drive ($175,000);
•Raul De La Fuente, 4908 Hummer Lane ($170,000);
•Dan Sitterly, 1901 Alazon Street ($153,000);
•Xpotential Functions, 3306 Pelican Avenue ($140,000);
•Rey Benavides, 1902 Chippewa Avenue ($140,000);
•Marcos Herrera, 509 Frio Drive ($125,000);
•Ernesto Cantú, 3409 Granada Street ($120,000);
•Thelma Hill, 2421 Seton Street ($110,000);
•Nick De More, 2633 Easy Street ($102,000);
•Leo Salazar, 1319 Eva Street ($100,000);
•Blanca Leal, 2614 Denise Circle ($100,000);
•Gilberto Vera, 717 Barton Drive ($100,000); and
•Gilberto Vera, 637 Barton Drive ($100,000).
Edinburg’s retail economy generated more than $1 million in local sales taxes during January 2008
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Edinburg’s retail economy in January 2008, as measured by the amount of local and state sales taxes generated by a wide range of local businesses, was up more than 7.1 percent over the same month in 2007, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.
In January 2008, Edinburg’s economy generated $1,088,092.60 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,015,366.40 in local sales taxes in January 2007, an improvement of 7.16 percent.
The latest monthly figure represents local sales taxes, mostly in January, sent to the state comptroller of public accounts in February, then sent back by the comptroller’s office to the Edinburg city government in the form of a rebate on March 14, 2008.
The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.
It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Joe Ochoa, former Mayor Richard García, who serves as board president, Fred Palacios, Dr. Glenn E. Martínez, Ph.D., and Elias Longoria, Jr.
The local sales taxes are generated by the city’s 1 1/2 cent local sales tax, and the 1/2 cent economic development sales tax that is administered by the EEDC.
Retail businesses are required to collect both the local and state sales taxes and send them to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The state government then sends the local share of the sales taxes to the communities in which they originated.
The local sales tax is used to help pay for dozens of major city services, ranging from new streets to city personnel.
Surprisingly, McAllen – the largest economic engine in South Texas – actually reported a drop in sales tax activity in January 2008.
McAllen’s economy generated more than $4 million in local sales taxes in January 2008, compared with more than $4.1 million during the same month in 2007, a decrease of 1.52 percent.
According to the comptroller’s office, Hidalgo County showed continued prosperity, although the percentage of growth was smaller than registered for Edinburg.
In January 2008, all cities in Hidalgo County generated more than $9 million in local sales taxes, up only 2.55 percent over January 2007, which reached more than $8.8 million.
Cameron County registered only slightly better economic growth than its larger neighboring county, based on the percentage of the increase, according to the state figures.
In January 2008, all cities in Cameron County generated almost $4.6 million in local sales taxes, compared with more than $4.4 million during the same month in 2007, an increase of 3.14 percent.
Other major cities in Hidalgo and Cameron counties reported the following sales tax figures.
•Brownsville’s retail economy generated almost $2.5 million in local sales taxes in January 2008 – or about 6.4 percent percent better than the January 2007 level of more than $2.3 million.
•Harlingen’s retail economy showed a drop of .48 percent. That community generated slightly more than $1.432 million in local sales taxes in January 2008, compared with slightly more than $1.439 million in January 2007.
•Mission’s retail economy showed the best percentage increase among the major Valley cities, generating more than $1 million in local sales taxes in January 2008, compared with more than $862,000 in January 2007, an increase of more than 16 percent.
•Pharr’s retail economy generated slightly more than $852,000 in local sales tax activities in January 2008, compared with almost $844,000 during the same month in 2007, an increase of one percent.
•Weslaco’s retail economy generated almost $689,000 in local sales tax revenue in January 2008, compared with almost $681,000 during January 2007, an increase of 1.16 percent.
Statewide, Comptroller Susan Combs reported continued growth in state and local sales tax revenues:
On Friday, March 14, Combs announced state sales tax revenue in February totaled $1.79 billion, up 8.8 percent compared to February 2007.
State sales tax revenue for February and March payments made to local governments today primarily represent sales that occurred in January.
“For the first half of fiscal 2008, state sales tax collections are up 7.1 percent over fiscal 2007,” Combs said. “Although growth is slower than the two previous fiscal years, increases in state sales tax revenues continue at a steady pace.”
Combs delivered $436.1 million in March sales tax payments to Texas cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts, a 9.9 percent increase compared to March 2007. So far this calendar year, local sales tax allocations are up 7.1 percent compared to the first three months of 2007.
Combs sent March sales tax payments of $293.2 million to Texas cities, up 9.2 percent compared to March 2007. Calendar year-to-date, city sales tax allocations are running 6.8 percent higher than last year. Texas counties received sales tax payments of $26.8 million, up 10.5 percent compared to one year ago. Calendar year-to-date, county sales tax allocations are 7.2 percent higher than last year.
The 126 special purpose taxing districts around the state received $14.2 million in sales tax revenue, up 20.1 percent compared to last March. Ten local transit systems received $101.7 million, up 10.6 percent.
For details of March sales tax payments to individual cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose districts, locate the Monthly Sales and Use Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports on the Comptroller’s Web site at http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/allocsum/compsum.html.
The Comptroller’s next sales tax allocation will be made on Friday, April 11.
Gov. Perry appoints three to Texas Funeral Services Commission, including successor to Javier Villalobos
Gov. Rick Perry recently appointed three members to the Texas Funeral Services Commission, which oversees the licensing of funeral directors and embalmers, and their compliance with state statutes and regulations regarding funeral services, cemeteries and crematories.
Joyce McCown Odom of San Antonio is a retired Delta Airlines flight attendant. She is a past board member of The Houston Baptist University Guild and the After Dinner Players Guild. She is also past board member and member of the Daughters of Liberty of Houston, and a longtime nursing home volunteer. Odom received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee.
She replaces Javier Villalobos of McAllen for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2011. Villalobos is the Republican Party nominee for state representative, House District 41, which includes southwest Edinburg.
Villalbos is challenging Rep.Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, in the November general election.
Carol M. Becker of Aledo is a retired counselor and sales associate. She served 15 years as executive director of the North Fort Worth Business Association and is a past event coordinator for the annual events held in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Becker is co-founder and past secretary of the Citizens Support Group for the Fort Worth Police Mounted Patrol, and a past member of Rotary Club International. Additionally, she assists with event coordination efforts for various organizations which have included the Future Farmers of America and Forth Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau. She replaces Harry Whittington of Austin for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2013.
Norberto Salinas of Mission is president of S&F Developers and Builders and mayor of the City of Mission. He is past commissioner of Hidalgo County and past board member of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. He is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Elected Officials, Lower Rio Grande Development Council Board of Directors and Texas Department of Transportation Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee. Additionally, Salinas volunteers with the International Good Neighbor Council, Mission Historical Museum and Mission Helping Hands. He formerly served on the Texas Funeral Services Commission from 1991-1997. He replaces Martha Greenlaw Stine of Houston for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2013.
UT System Chancellor Yudof to leave, named president of the University of California
BY MATT FLORES
The University of California Board of Regents on Thursday, March 27, appointed Mark G. Yudof, chancellor of The University of Texas System, as president of the University of California system. The appointment will be effective this summer, with the exact date to be determined.
“Chancellor Yudof is the gold standard in higher education administration, and it’s no surprise that the UC System sought out his leadership,” said H. Scott Caven, Jr., chairman of the UT System Board of Regents. “He will be missed and we are grateful for his service to the UT System and to higher education in Texas.”
Caven 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.
While chancellor, Yudof instituted an accountability system that is recognized as a national model; raised the national standing of the UT System and all its institutions; and created a system administration that has added value to virtually every corner of its operation, Caven said.
“The team he has assembled here is one of the very best in the country, and he is leaving a UT System that is immeasurably stronger and better because of his service. No one is irreplaceable, but finding someone of his caliber is not going to be easy. We hate to lose him, but we congratulate the UC System and wish Mark and Judy all the best,” Caven added.
“It’s easy to see how attractive Chancellor Yudof is to the University of California and to higher education institutions in general,” said Regents’ Vice Chairman James R. Huffines. “Mark has a passion for accountability, transparency and excellence – and he made those hallmarks of his administration here. He has done a great job for us and working with him has been an absolute pleasure.”
The UT System Board of Regents appointed Yudof chancellor in August 2002, making him the chief administrative officer of one of the nation’s largest higher education systems. The UT System has more than 194,000 students and 81,000 employees spread over nine academic and six health institutions, and an annual operating budget of $10.7 billion. The system confers more than one-third of Texas’ undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state’s healthcare professionals annually.
Prior to his appointment as UT System chancellor, Yudof served as president of the University of Minnesota from 1997 to 2002. Previously, Yudof, a constitutional law scholar, was a faculty member and administrator at UT Austin for 26 years, serving as dean of the School of Law from 1984 to 1994 and as the university’s executive vice president and provost from 1994 to 1997.
The University of California news release concerning the announcement may be viewed online here: http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/newpresident2008/pressrelease.html
Congressman Hinojosa announces launch of a major initiative to boost literacy in South Texas
By ELIZABETH ESHAFANI
Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, along with education leaders from across the nation, on Friday, March 28, unveiled a major initiative to boost literacy in South Texas.
The congressman, in conjunction with organizations from South Texas and nationwide, announced the launch of the South Texas Literacy Coalition. The group encompasses a range of partners that includes national organizations, community leaders and education experts from pre-K programs and elementary schools all the way to the university level. The mission of the coalition is to enhance learning opportunities for all of South Texas by ensuring children and families have access to literacy services and resources.
“We are here today because we share a common mission – to end the chronic problem of reading apathy and illiteracy plaguing our region,” Hinojosa said. “Right now, we have an unique opportunity to enrich the lives of our students and spark a love for reading that will last a lifetime. While the joy of reading is hard to quantify, the impact of instilling a love for books is not. Children who read for fun on a daily basis score better on tests. Unfortunately, too many of our students struggle with reading and do not have access to the literacy resources they need.”
“This coalition will formulate realistic solutions and long-term plans that will effectively boost literacy in our South Texas schools and improve our region’s productivity and progress,” Hinojosa said. “Half of the adults over the age of 18 in our region do not have a high school diploma or GED. We are laying the groundwork so that this statistic will soon be obsolete.”
The coalition’s initiative could not come at a moment too soon. In Texas, there are 3.3 million residents who are considered to be functionally illiterate; 1 in 4 Texans lack basic reading and writing skills. The cost of illiteracy in Texas is estimated to be over $17 billion a year.
One of the first goals of the coalition is to expand literacy programs in the Region One service area. This provides an opportunity to bring books and other literacy materials to students and families in South Texas and to let children select the books they want to read.
With partner Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the South Texas Literacy Coalition is looking to significantly enlarge the Books for Ownership program. RIF’s Books for Ownership service motivates children, families, and community members to read together through a triad of principles: book ownership, motivational activities, and family involvement in children’s reading. The goal is to have all of South Texas schools under the Books for Ownership program within the next five years.
“We are honored to facilitate the development of the South Texas Literacy Coalition,” said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF, which is the nation’s oldest and largest non-profit children’s literacy organization. “RIF is strongly committed to this initiative. Last year, RIF served over 100,000 children in South Texas through 16 existing RIF programs. This year alone, we will expand RIF programs into 42 new schools, greatly increasing the number of free books distributed to children in the area and motivating them to read for fun.”
“I am confident this new regional literacy initiative will spark a love for reading in our South Texas students from preschool to sixth grade,” added Hinojosa. “We plan to put books into the hands of tens of thousands of our youth in this region and implement activities that will broaden their horizons and foster a joy for reading.”
Earlier in the day, Hinojosa participated in the first-ever Congressional Roundtable on Literacy at UT-Pan American’s Festival of International Books and Arts (FESTIBA). Experts from across the education spectrum discussed the issue of literacy and different efforts being made to successfully address illiteracy and reading apathy within the local community. The discussion was moderated by Univision 48’s Octavio Sáenz.
ECISD receives $86,000 dividend from property insurance program
By GILBERT TAGLE
The Edinburg CISD recently 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, announced Aureliano Flores, assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations.
The dividend is part of $2 million in dividends approved by the PCAT Board of Trustees for distribution to 96 school districts who are members of the alliance. The PCAT board also approved a $1 million in dividends for the 2009 year.
The ECISD’s tenure with PCAT determined the size of the dividends the school district will receive this year and in 2009. By partnering with PCAT, the Edinburg school district effectively stabilizes insurance funding and reduces the district’s ultimate property and casualty insurance costs.
Flores said PCAT is a Texas interlocal governmental risk program representing nearly 100 Texas school districts and over $26 million in annual contributions. Formed in 2003, PCAT has grown to become the 13th largest property/casualty public entity pool in the U.S.
The Edinburg CISD has been a member of PCAT since 2003 and is represented by agent Jerry Bravenec of Carlisle Insurance Agency, said Flores.
The program administrator for PCAT, Jack Melton, president and CEO of North American Solutions, said that dividends are just one of the many ways in which PCAT helps schools reduce their ultimate insurance costs.
Melton said, “The Edinburg school district is committed to a comprehensive financial plan, aggressive claims administration and active involvement in loss control activities.”
“The successful investment strategy is returning dollars to the classroom where administrators can serve their ultimate objective of educating our children,” said Melton. “Evidence of this shared philosophy was validated when 100 percent of our school district partners chose to renew their coverage with PCAT over any other available option.”
Melton said that PCAT was developed for school risk managers who are not satisfied with costs that can only be predicted for one year. PCAT members look for long-term cost savings over comparable single-year coverage, said Melton.
Texas Railroad Commission candidate Thompson lasted voted in statewide election in 1996, according to rival Henry’s campaign
Mark Thompson, a Democratic candidate for Texas Railroad Commission, did not cast a single vote between November 1996 and the March 4 Democratic Primary election in which he was a candidate, according to a review conducted of Thompson’s voting record by his opponent’s campaign.
Dale Henry faces Mark Thompson in the April 8 Democratic primary runoff. The winner of the runoff will face Commissioner Michael L. Williams, a Republican, in the general election.
According to the voter history for Thompson, a public record obtained from the Hamilton County Tax Assessor’s Office, prior to the March 2008 Democratic Primary, Thompson last voted in 1996 – when he cast votes in the 1996 Republican primary and the 1996 general election. According to the Hamilton County Tax Assessor’s Office, Thompson first registered to vote on December 6, 1989.
“It is very curious that someone who is now running for statewide office has not bothered to vote in an election for more than a decade,” said Vince Leibowitz, Campaign Director for Dale Henry’s campaign for Texas Railroad Commissioner.
“Between November 1996 and March 2008, Texas had several statewide elections for positions–including Texas Railroad Commissioner – and some very important statewide constitutional amendments. Based upon the public record, it appears that Mark Thompson didn’t bother to cast a single vote in any of those elections,” Leibowitz said.
The last time Thompson participated in an election prior to his own, Bob Dole and Phil Gramm were on the ballot, Leibowitz added.
“Between 1996 and 2008 there were some very important elections from the race for President on down, plus constitutional amendment elections that literally changed the face of Texas. Mark Thompson didn’t think any of those were important enough to bother to show up and make his voice heard,” Leibowitz said.
In light of these facts, it is unsurprising that, on primary election night, Thompson didn’t even know what a runoff election was, Leibowitz noted. “He didn’t know until a newspaper reporter explained it to him,” Leibowitz said.
“It is one thing to stand up and run for office because you are mad or want to see something changed, but, to have failed to vote for over 10 years and then stand up and cry that it is time for a change is hypocritical. Thompson could have voted for change before, and he didn’t bother to do so,” Leibowitz concluded.
Hispanic scholarship banquet focuses on jailed Cuban journalists, pays tribute to pioneer Rubén Salazar
With bitterness borne of injustice, Manuel Vázquez Portal described the seemingly endless days of worm-ridden food and disgusting water in a dirty Cuban jail cell, with only rats as company. For the elegant dinner crowd, his story was a sobering account of how some independent journalists are still being treated today in Cuba, one of the world’s worst violators of press freedom.
In his keynote address at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ 19th Annual Scholarship Banquet on March 13 in New York, Vázquez Portal urged those gathered to keep pressing the Cuban government to free the 22 journalists that remain behind bars.
“I know they are innocent,” Vázquez Portal told the journalists, media executives and community leaders gathered to hear his deeply personal message delivered in a poetic style. “Their only crimes are loving liberty, justice, and beauty.”
Only China jails more journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which days later released a report on the 5th anniversary of a crackdown on freedom of expression dubbed Black Spring. Vázquez Portal was among 75 journalists and dissidents thrown in jail. As a tribute to their sacrifice, Vázquez Portal called out the names of those who remain incarcerated.
Thanks to international pressure from various organizations and individuals, Vázquez Portal served a fraction of his 18-year sentence and now lives in Miami. But most of those sentenced to between 14 and 27 years in jail have not been as lucky.
Event draws big names
Those in the audience hearing Vázquez Portal’s appeal included some of the nation’s most respected journalists: ABC’s Jim Avila, The New York Daily News’ Juan Gonzalez, WNJU-TV Telemundo 47’s Jorge Ramos, and Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera.
CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and ABC’s John Quiñones served as the emcee and banquet chair, respectively, at the event to raise money for NAHJ’s Rubén Salazar Scholarship Fund and Educational Programs. Salazar, the Mexican American journalist considered a trailblazer for many colleagues in the ballroom, is being honored by the U.S. Postal Service with his own stamp to go on sale April 22 as part of the “American Journalists” series.
Salazar was killed August 29th, 1970 by a tear-gas projectile fired by a deputy sheriff into a bar in East Los Angeles. He had been interviewing people at a Chicano Anti-Vietnam War Moratorium rally. No one was ever charged with the crime. NAHJ decided to honor Salazar back in 1986 by naming the association’s scholarship fund after him.
“It is so fitting because education was so important to my father,’’ said Salazar’s daughter Lisa Salazar Johnson, who spoke at the annual fundraiser. The March 13th event celebrating the release of the Rubén Salazar stamp was the first of more to come. Other celebrations of Salazar’s life and the stamp will take place in April in Washington, D.C., Tucson, and Los Angeles.
‘Something he would have never dreamed of’
“As you can imagine, my entire family is deeply moved that the U.S. Postal Service is honoring our father with a stamp,” Salazar Johnson said in her brief remarks. “I know that is something he would have never dreamed of. It’s just so grand. We are very, very proud of him and this is a fantastic honor.”
Salazar was a trailblazer. According to his alma mater, the University of Texas at El Paso, at the time known as Texas Western College, Salazar was the first Mexican American journalist to work for the El Paso Herald Post; to have a column at the Los Angeles Times; and to be a foreign correspondent, all in the 1950’s. After working in mainstream news media for 15 years, he became news director of Spanish-language television station KMEX in Los Angeles just months before he died in 1970 to speak to his people in their own language.
Representing the 33 students who received $125,000 in scholarships from NAHJ in 2007, University of North Carolina sophomore Jaime Zea presented Salazar Johnson with a framed quill with an engraving that read: “We salute Rubén Salazar’s pioneering work, which keeps opening doors for our young Latino journalists.”
Zea urged NAHJ’s supporters to continue giving to the Rubén Salazar Scholarship Fund, which has helped hundreds of students achieve their dreams over the past 22 years. Thanks to the generosity of individuals, foundations and corporations, NAHJ has awarded more than $1.4 million in scholarships to 525 students and has spent another $2 million on training programs benefiting more than 1,000 students. “I want to be a journalist because I believe communication is essential for a well functioning society, and I think that as communicators we greatly serve our communities.” Zea said.
A changing, not dying industry
In between anecdotes relating to Salazar, University of Arizona Professor Olga Briseño, largely credited with making the Salazar stamp a reality, urged scholarship winners in the audience to turn the challenges they face into opportunities in a changing news industry.
“Hundreds of journalists are being laid off … consider a career in a dying industry, because it is not dying it is changing,” Briseño said to applause. “Don’t let anyone tell you that this industry is dying.”
She continued: “Our fight, los viejitos que estan aquí todavía, becomes yours. Join us in demanding the media include minorities, however this time, we need media owners to reflect who we are.”
Briseño said Salazar initially wanted to become an editorial cartoonist. But after writing an editorial about how the college team refused to play a visiting team because they had black players, he decided to focus on writing, believing it would have a greater impact.
While many associate Salazar with his death, she said his family wants him to be recognized for how he lived and his professional accomplishments. He interviewed presidents, introduced the world to César Chávez, talked with students about their protests, and opened the doors for others to follow him into journalism.
‘I had a dream’
Quiñones told the students his dream was to be a journalist, and his inspiration was sitting in the audience.
“Geraldo Rivera was on ABC on 20/20… he’s not much older than I am, but already he was kicking ass on 20/20, doing all kinds of incredible stories and I would look up to him and I would dream of someday working on 20/20 and guess what, the dream came true,” Quiñones said. “I now work for the news magazine at ABC. So it is possible.”
Sen. Cornyn: Texas justice prevails in U.S. Supreme Court, with ruling that will deliver death penalty against Mexican citizen
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and former Texas Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice, on Tuesday, March 25, made the following statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Medellin v. Texas case:
“José Ernesto Medellin is a brutal criminal who terrorized and murdered two innocent girls in Texas. Today (March 25), the Supreme Court upheld the right of Texans to administer criminal justice under our state’s laws and consistent with the U.S. Constitution. The high court correctly ruled that the President’s unprecedented attempt to unilaterally impose an international treaty obligation on a state and its courts exceeds his constitutional powers. Foreign governments and international law should not dictate how Texas administers justice.
“This ruling is particularly important because other foreign nationals who committed similar crimes in our country would have used this case to extend their appeals process and delay justice. I hope that with the conclusion of this case, the victims of this brutal criminal and their families will finally see the justice they have long sought.”
Medellín confessed to and was convicted of the brutal gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston. Prior to the March 25 ruling by the Supreme Court, he had numerous appeals rejected by state and federal courts.
The only judicial body to rule favorably for this brutal murderer was the International Court of Justice in The Hague (Netherlands) in 2004, in a case brought by Mexico against the United States. Even that court rejected Mexico’s request for annulment of Medellín’s conviction and sentence.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the Court’s majority opinion that “[t]he responsibility for transforming an international obligation arising from a non-self-executing treaty into domestic law falls to Congress.”
Gov. Perry touts Texas’ efforts to reform health care system, create health insurance assistance programs
Speaking to an audience of medical professionals and community leaders at the Ibn Sina Community Medical Center, Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday, March 27, emphasized the importance of changing societal paradigms from hospital-based care to encouraging preventive care. The governor also touted the state’s efforts to decrease the number of uninsured Texans by creating a health insurance assistance program for those individuals who cannot afford it on their own.
“Together with philanthropic organizations like the Ibn Sina Foundation, Texas is making great strides to ensuring health coverage for those uninsured Texans who need help the most,” said Gov. Perry.
In his 2007 State of the State Address, Gov. Perry proposed, and the Legislature passed, an innovative approach to reducing the number of uninsured Texans. The program is designed to increase the percentage of Texans with health care coverage, focus on prevention, and emphasize consumer choice in health services.
Specifically, the program helps individuals below 200 percent of the federal poverty limit purchase health insurance through employer-based programs or private plans by paying a portion of the premium cost. This initiative will decrease the number of uninsured Texans, and promote ownership of personal health care.
Ibn Sina Community Medical Center brings affordable, high-quality preventive medical care to the immigrant and indigent communities in Houston. Patients receive immunizations, health screenings, low cost lab services, and prescriptions are given free of charge if they are available. The center expects to serve more than 13,000 patients this year.
“The Ibn Sina Community Medical Center plays an important role in this community, promoting preventive health care and positive lifestyles to all the lives they touch,” said Gov. Perry. “Efforts like this exemplify the best of the human spirit and advance our common goal of achieving a happy and healthy Texas.”
Do attractive women want it all? New UT study reveals relationship standards are relative
Although many researchers have believed women choose partners based on the kind of relationship they are seeking, a new study from The University of Texas at Austin reveals women’s preferences can be influenced by their own attractiveness.
David Buss, psychology researcher at the university, has published the findings in “Attractive Women Want it All: Good Genes, Economic Investment, Parenting Proclivities and Emotional Commitment” in this month’s Evolutionary Psychology.
Previous researchers argued that what women value depended on the type of relationship they were looking for. Women looking for long-term partners want someone who will be a good provider for them and their children, but women seeking short-term flings care more about masculinity and physical attractiveness, features that may be passed down to children.
Buss and Todd Shackelford, psychology professor at Florida Atlantic University, found women ideally want partners who have all the characteristics they desire, but they will calibrate their standards based on their own desirability.
“When reviewing the qualities they desire in romantic partners, women gauge what they can get based on what they got,” Buss said. “And women who are considered physically attractive maintain high standards for prospective partners across a variety of characteristics.”
The researchers identified four categories of characteristics women seek in a partner:
• Good genes, reflected in desirable physical traits,
• The desire to have children and good parenting skills, and
• Loyalty and devotion.
Most women attempt to secure the best combination of the qualities they desire from the same man, but the researchers said a small portion of women who do not find a partner with all the qualities may trade some characteristics for others.
Although women’s selectivity across categories reflected how attractive they appeared to other people, the researchers found the characteristics men desired in a partner did not vary based on their own physical attractiveness.
More U.S. teeth susceptible to silent enamel-eating syndrome, particularly for youths in South Texas
BY WILL SANSOM
Cavities or not, your teeth could be in more trouble than you know because of a silent and destructive phenomenon called dental erosion. A faculty member at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has found that the incidence of dental erosion, which is the steady loss of the teeth’s protective enamel, is on the rise in the United States.
Bennett T. Amaechi, M.S., Ph.D., associate professor of community dentistry at the UT Health Science Center, and colleagues discovered a 30 percent prevalence rate of dental erosion among 10- to 14-year-olds in the United States. Dr. Amaechi led the San Antonio portion of the nation’s first population-based, multi-center study of dental erosion. The study, involving 900 middle school students, was conducted in 2004 and 2005 at Indiana University, the University of California at San Francisco and the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.
Dental erosion has not been widely analyzed in the United States. “This study is important because it confirms our suspicions of the high prevalence of dental erosion in this country and, more importantly, brings awareness to dental practitioners and patients of its prevalence, causes, prevention and treatment,” Dr. Amaechi said.
He explained that dental erosion is caused by acids found in products that are being more widely consumed than ever in the U.S. These include soft drinks, some fruit juices, sports drinks, herbal teas, beer salts, and the Lucas brand of candy imported from Mexico that is especially popular among children in San Antonio and South Texas.
“When consumed in excess, these products can easily strip the enamel from the teeth, leaving the teeth more brittle and sensitive to pain,” Dr. Amaechi said. “The acids in these products can be so corrosive that not even cavity-causing bacteria can survive when exposed to them.”
Dr. Amaechi said some medications including aspirin, when taken regularly, have erosive potential. Some underlying medical conditions such as acid reflux disease or disorders associated with chronic vomiting, including bulimia, also can cause dental erosion because of the gastric acids that are regurgitated into the mouth.
“It is important for dental practitioners to identify dental erosion and its causes before it is too late,” Dr. Amaechi said. “Because dental erosion creates a smooth and shiny appearance of the enamel and causes no pain or sensitivity in its early stages, most patients are not aware that they are suffering from the condition until the problem becomes severe. Therefore, the responsibility of early detection and treatment falls on the professionals.”
Dr. Amaechi’s findings were published in the international publication the Dental Tribune and have been translated in 35 languages. His article outlines the prevalence and potential causes of dental erosion and provides dental practitioners with guidelines for detection, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $576 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 22,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields.
Enhanced UT System web site features tuition and fee proposals, access and affordability information
The University of Texas System on Wednesday, March 20, launched a revamped Web site aimed at helping inform students, parents and others about accessing and paying for college. The updated site also includes campus proposals for tuition and fees at UT System institutions planned for the next two academic years.
The expanded Web site (http://www.utsystem.edu/affordability) contains information and resource links on financial aid, how tuition is used, campus cost-saving initiatives and how to pay for college, among other things. The user-friendly site also includes profiles of current students at each of the UT System’s nine academic campuses who overcame challenges associated with financing their college educations.
“This Web site provides a comprehensive look into tuition and the financial aid process, one that we hope will help unravel some of the misperceptions that students and parents have about college affordability,” said UT System Chancellor Mark G. Yudof. “Ultimately, we hope this informative Web site reaches thousands of prospective and current students who might not otherwise attend college because of misplaced fears over financing their education. We want everyone to know that, for qualified students, help is available and a UT education remains affordable.”
The UT System and its institutions pioneered the development of detailed tuition and fee Web sites for use by students, families and the general public. Since 2003, the Web sites have been aimed at making available transparent and easy-to-understand tuition and fee information and financial aid resources.
Proposals for new tuition and fee rates for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years at the System’s academic and health institutions are posted on the site. The UT System Board of Regents, which last December capped tuition increases to 4.95 percent per year or $150 per semester, whichever is greater, is expected to set new tuition and fee rates on March 26.
About the University of Texas System
Serving the educational and health care needs of Texans for more than 125 years, the UT System is one of the nation’s largest higher education systems with 15 campuses – including nine academic and six health institutions – and an annual operating budget of $10.7 billion (FY 2008). Student enrollment exceeded 190,000 in the 2006 academic year. The UT System confers one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and educates three-fourths of Texas health care professionals. With more than 80,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in Texas.