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Roland Arriola leaves UT-Pan American to help next generation of Texans succeed - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Edwards Abstract and Title Co., has been recognized by the Texas Land Title Association as the company with the second most consecutive years of service in the state of Texas. Edwards Abstract and Title Co. was founded in 1880 by Judge James Henry Edwards with property records of both Starr and Hidalgo counties. In 2008, Edwards is celebrating 128 years of serving the region with four branch offices in Hidalgo County. The company is independently owned and operated and the corporate office is located in Edinburg. Featured in the lobby of the Edwards Corporate Office in Edinburg are: Elva Jackson Garza, Vice President/Marketing Manager; Marilyn De Luna, McAllen Branch Manager/Escrow Officer; Diana S. Kaufold, Vice President/Edinburg Branch Manager/Escrow Officer; Byron Jay Lewis, President; Rachel Arévalo, Executive Vice President/Commercial Closing Specialist; Mary Arce, Weslaco Branch Manager/Escrow Officer (back) Mary Barrientos, Mission Branch Manager/Escrow Officer; Mel Casas, Branch Operations Coordinator; Edna Cazares, Comptroller; Dan Cook, I. T. Manager; Mark Peña, Attorney – Lewis, Monroe & Peña; Angie Villarreal, Assistant Plant Manager/Examiner; Nancy Bryant, Accounting Manager; Alan D. Monroe, Attorney – Lewis, Monroe & Peña and René Correa, Plant Manager/Title Attorney.


Roland Arriola leaves UT-Pan American to help next generation of Texans succeed - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas, president of the University of Texas-Pan American, spoke during the annual Go Red for Women Luncheon and Showcase, at the Cimarron Country Club in Mission on Thursday, May 22. At the event, hosted by the American Heart Association, Cárdenas talked about her heart surgery and the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Pictured from left to right are Cárdenas; Dr. Filiberto Rodríguez-Salinas, M.D. cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon; Gilda Romero, chief operating officer for the South Texas Health System; and Rebecca Taylor, senior corporate marketing director for the American Heart Association. For more information on the Go Red for Women event, contact Taylor at 956/984-0201.



Roland Arriola leaves UT-Pan American to help next generation of Texans succeed - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Once again South Texas College’s commitment to the higher education of Hispanic students is being highlighted on the national education scene. Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine ranks the college third in the nation in the enrollment of Hispanic students among all U.S. colleges. Hispanic students comprise more than 94 percent of the college’s total enrollment. The ranking appears in the May 5, 2008 issue. Featured here are some of the more than 2,000 students who graduated earlier in May. See story later in this posting.


Roland Arriola leaves UT-Pan American to help next generation of Texans succeed - Titans of the Texas Legislature

There are high hopes for “Archipos” and the Mini Baja team from The University of Texas-Pan American to do well as they gear up to compete in the international Mini Baja competition, June 11-14 in Orford, Quebec in Canada. The UTPA team will be among 120 teams competing from the United States and around the world in the international competition. Sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the object of the Mini Baja competition is to simulate real-world engineering design projects. Students work together to design, build, test, promote and race a vehicle within the limits of the rules. The team includes Dr. Arturo A. Fuentes, associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior adviser; Dr. Kamalaksha Sarkar, mechanical engineering lecturer and adviser; team captain Joe Villanueva; Torres; Julian Gutiérrez, co-captain; Humberto Rodríguez; Luis Domínguez, Eddie E. Pérez, Roberto Pérez, Victor Salinas, Nathaniel Olivarez, Astrid K. Torres, and Eleazar Ruiz. See story later in this posting.


Roland Arriola leaves UT-Pan American to help next generation of Texans succeed - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Dr. Roland S. Arriola, Ph.D., on Wednesday, May 28, announced the formation of ENCORE – Engaging Communities for College Readiness, a major initiative of the Texas Valley Communities Foundation to help more students aspire, and be academically prepared, for college and university life. Arriola, a former longtime board member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, is president of the TVCF. The non-profit group, which is based in Edinburg, plans to create a $100 million endowment to help dozens of Valley charities help improve the quality-of-life in deep South Texas. See lead story later in this posting.


Roland Arriola leaves UT-Pan American to help next generation of Texans succeed


In many ways, the recent decision by Dr. Roland Arriola, Ph.D., of Edinburg, to retire from a top leadership post at the University of Texas-Pan American will probably mean that he will help even more young South Texans realize their dreams of a college education and beyond.

Arriola, a longtime vice-president at the local university, is best known by many for helping create HESTEC, the familiar acronym for Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology – a week-long series of major conferences, exhibits, demonstrations, and expositions held each fall at the Edinburg campus.

HESTEC is designed to inspire Hispanic students to do well in middle and high school by exposing them to national figures, from astronauts, leading journalists and famous entertainers to titans of industry and politics, who serve as role models to an estimated 85,000 South Texas public students and their families who annually participate in the early autumn gathering in Edinburg.

Arriola was also a longtime member of the board of directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

Until about mid-2003, Arriola’s participation with the EEDC was credited for helping shape economic and legislative policies that have laid the foundation for many of the city’s achievements, ranging from major infrastructure improvements that led to the booming medical industry in Edinburg, to landing the $18 million U.S. Border Patrol headquarters and the $20 million component of the UT Regional Academic Health Center.

ENCORE performance

Again, Arriola’s influence on the region’s welfare will continue to reach beyond UT-Pan American.

On Wednesday, May 28, Arriola returned to the spotlight again with a major press conference, hosted by The Social Club in Edinburg, where he announced that a relatively-new organization, The Texas Valley Communities Foundation – of which he is president – will help the region’s non-profit organizations identify and secure millions of dollars in grants to help improve the quality-of-life in deep South Texas.

Among its major initiatives is the creation of ENCORE – Engaging Communities for College Readiness – a landmark effort that will help eligible community organizations find resources and funds for projects that prepare students to get ready for higher education.

Eventually, the foundation hopes to reach an endowment of $100 million. Generally, an endowment is a permanent fund bestowed upon an institution, such as a foundation, that is dedicated for a specific purpose.

In addition to Arriola, TVCF’s Board of Directors include Eduardo E. Caso of Rio Grande City; Joseph F. Phillips of Sharyland; Celeste Cantú-Roach of Sharyland; Leo Olivares of Austin; Dale Winters of McAllen; and Sofía Hernández of Rio Grande City.

Common bonds

Although Arriola heaped attention and praise on the other eight board members of the foundation, he also is a symbol of generations of South Texans who have overcome economic and social obstacles to succeed, and those more affluent who have selflessly offered their financial and political support.

"I hope I don’t get emotional here, but let me explain why I am so deeply passionate about this," Arriola said. "I can recall when I was growing up, my mother, during the day, went around selling the World Book Encyclopedia, and at night, she would work in the hospitals, cleaning out the bed pans, and all that."

Raised in a loving family of 10 – their father generated income as an agricultural worker – Arriola said his parents were the role models who not only sacrificed on behalf of their children, but imparted words of wisdom that they have never forgotten.

"I remember how I looked up to her (their mother), and she would keep saying, ‘Mijito (my little son), you just have to finish your education, you have to do this’," Arriola proudly remembered. "That is why all 10 of us in our family earned a college degree, including several with advanced degrees."

Madison Avenue

Using HESTEC as the gold standard, Arriola said educating families about how to help their children achieve a college education will involve constant media campaigns – similar to the public relations strategies employed by Madison Avenue advertising conglomerates – such as the May 28 press conference to kick-off the latest news about ENCORE and the Texas Valley Communities Foundation.

"What I am trying to say is that we have to have this urgency, we have to work with the parents in every way we can, through every form of communication," he said. "They are so busy trying to keep their families fed, working hard, but we still have to find a way to communicate with them. We are going to do that."

He said the need to increase the number of students in UT-Pan American’s fledgling engineering programs was the catalyst for a new way to recruit students – by more directly involving their parents.

"When we were thinking about HESTEC, we looked at our engineering program, and we only had about 400 engineering students. What were we going to do? We had to reach out," Arriola said. "So we started HESTEC (in 2002). Last year, we had 85,000 people on our campus. We brought parents, las abuelitas (grandmothers), los tios (uncles/aunts), los primos (cousins), and today, we have more than 1,000 students in our engineering programs. I know it works."

The results for HESTEC have paid off, he said.

"We are already in the top six universities in the number of Hispanic engineering students in the nation," Arriola said.

During HESTEC, the parents were the best public relations success for the university.

"The parents started telling the kids, who didn’t even know about it," Arriola said. "Some of the kids in the middle schools thought an engineer was the guy who rode a caboose in a train. The parents toured the buildings (at UTPA), then the public school teachers came, and it just made them start thinking. I know it works because I saw it work for HESTEC."

Philanthropy in the RGV

Arriola’s latest venture in community service is best summed up by the slogan for Texas Valley Communities Foundation: "Developing Philanthropy in the Rio Grande Valley".

"Now that I am retired, I am going to dedicate the rest of my life to making sure that you are going to see so much coming out in the media about college readiness," he told about a dozen news media representatives who were joined by about another 100 area business, community, and political leaders.

You thought you saw so much about HESTEC, you are going to see so much about this that it is going to saturate your mind, you heart, and soul," he promised.

The art of giving is often ignored in the major news media, but Arriola thinks South Texans hunger for good news that make a difference in their lives.

"I know in politics today, we hear so much about Iraq, but the number one thing is education," Arriola contended. "It solves so many problems. It should be first and foremost. Everyone of us had our parents say, ‘they can’t take education away from you.’

"I am here to say I want all of you to be as passionate about this," he continued. "We are a family here. We want to help you find the resources. We can’t do your jobs, but we can find a way to support you. That is why we are here."

TVCF Board of Directors

In addition to Arriola, the other board members for the Texas Valley Communities Foundation include:

• Eduardo E. Caso, Senior Vice President and Manager for International Banking at Wells Fargo Bank, Rio Grande Valley, who has extensive experiences in international trade and foreign affairs;

• Joseph F. Phillips of Sharyland, an area business leader and investor who, along with his brother, Tommy, built their family’s McAllen-area petroleum distribution business into one of the largest fuel and convenience store chains in South Texas;

• Celeste Cantú-Roach, a philanthropist who serves on the Sharyland Education Foundation, and whose many generous charitable contributions have helped numerous organizations, including shelters for battered women and children, and hospice efforts for the terminally-ill;

• Leo Olivares, a former top legislative policy analyist to Sens. Mickey Leland, D-Houston, Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Carlos Truan, D-Corpus Christi. He also a former city manger for Rio Grande City who is currently a student at the University of Texas Law School;

• Sofía Hernández of Rio Grande City, the Director of Economic Development for the Office of Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III. Her extensive credentials also include having served as a legislative advisor to Sens. Lucio, Truan, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo;

• Dale Winter, the secretary/treasurer for the foundation, and CEO of Office Furniture USA in McAllen. He is active in numerous civic and service organizations, ranging from the McAllen Business Alliance to the University of Texas-Pan American Foundation Board;

• Rosa Elia González, who family operate a number of Subway franchises in Starr County and own and operate R.E. Supplies in Rio Grande City. She represents Starr County on several boards with a goal to improve the quality of life in the Upper Valley;

• Diane Willis, the principal at Hargill Elementary in Hargill, and an educator with the Edinburg school district for the past 18 years. She also serves as secretary on he board of the UTPA Alumni Association, and has earned several degrees from UT-Pan American.

Texas Valley Communities is located at 2836 W. Trenton Road in Edinburg. They may be reached at 956/630-3331 and their fax number is 956/630-3344.


Edwards Abstract and Title Company of Edinburg recognized as the second oldest in state by the Texas Land Title Association


The Texas Land Title Association is celebrating 100 years of serving as an advocate for the state’s real estate industry. The organization will host their annual convention in San Antonio to acknowledge past and current leaders and especially industry related companies who have been in business for 100 years or longer.

One local title insurance company, Edwards Abstract and Title Co., has been recognized in the TLTA Centennial Magazine as the company with the second most consecutive years of service in the state of Texas. Edwards Abstract and Title Co. was founded in 1880 by Judge James Henry Edwards with property records of both Starr and Hidalgo counties. In 2008, Edwards is celebrating 128 years of serving the region with four branch offices in Hidalgo County. The company is independently owned and operated and the corporate office is located in Edinburg.

“The foundation of our company are the people who have contributed to the successful operation of Edwards over the decades. We honor and pay tribute to all who have come before us and who have made a valuable contribution with their special skills, knowledge and dedication to Edwards Abstract and Title Co.,” commented Byron Jay Lewis, president.

Edwards Abstract and Title Co. has been an active participant of TLTA with the regional conferences held annually in the Rio Grande Valley. Byron Jay Lewis has also served in the Agent Executive Committee in the state level during 2004.

“On behalf of the Edwards Team, I want to extend our congratulations to the Texas Land Title Association and their leadership for their successful operation for the past one hundred years.” Lewis added.

TLTA is a statewide trade association representing the title insurance industry in Texas. Founded in 1908 and serving a membership of over 2700, TLTA provides regulatory and legislative advocacy, continuing education and up-to-date information as it relates to the industry.

TLTA’s celebration of the century will be held on June 5-7 in San Antonio. TLTA has recently secured several notable speakers including Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson who will provide a perspective on the economic and business climate in Texas and Texas historian and author James Haley will share fascinating stories of Ten Tall Texans You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.

For more information log on to or


Hidalgo County announces photography contest


Do you have a love of the lens? If so, Hidalgo County invites you to participate in its first annual photography contest — “Past, Present and Future of Hidalgo County.”

“This photography contest is our small way of supporting the arts, showcasing the work of local photographers and sharing the beauty of Hidalgo County with the general public,” said Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III.

Hidalgo County cannot offer prize money to the winners; however, winners’ work will be featured prominently on the county’s new website (, which is set to launch on June 6, as well at the new administration building located at the intersection of Canton Road and Closner Boulevard in Edinburg for up to one year.

“You see the beautiful paintings and artwork in many state government buildings and even students’ artwork at the school administration buildings. We wanted to do something similar and give local photographers a chance to show off what they’ve shot,” Salinas said. “Also, our new website will be much more user-friendly and help to bring government services to the people. We anticipate a lot more traffic on the site, and there’s no better place to show off Hidalgo County’s nature, wildlife, businesses, people and cultures to residents and visitors.”

The photography contest deadline is July 1 and is open to all photographers, no matter what age. Judges will notify winners shortly after the July 4 holiday. Photographers under 17 should obtain parent permission. Photographers will retain copyrights of their photos. For all submission guidelines and image specifications, please see the attached entry form and rules.

To obtain entry forms and rules, please contact Cari Lambrecht, Public Information Officer, in the Office of the Hidalgo County Judge at (956) 292-7026 or (956) 318-2600. The forms are also posted on the judge’s blog at and will be on the new website,


South Texas College ranks third among U.S. colleges in enrollment of Hispanics


Once again South Texas College’s commitment to the higher education of Hispanic students is being highlighted on the national education scene. Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine ranks the college third in the nation in the enrollment of Hispanic students among all U.S. colleges. Hispanic students comprise more than 94 percent of the college’s total enrollment. The ranking appears in the May 5, 2008 issue.

“Yes, we are proud to be a Hispanic serving institution and our enrollment continues to skyrocket because we are developing new and innovative programs to encourage our students to attend and succeed in college,” said Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC founding president. “In just 14 years our enrollment has grown from 1,000 students to more than 20,000. Students are choosing STC because we listen to the voices of the students and develop strategies to make higher education affordable and accessible not just for a select few, but for everyone.”

According to Community College Week, STC ranks as the third fastest growing community college in the nation; first in the nation in awarding associate degrees in education; and third in the nation in awarding associate degrees to Hispanic students. STC was one of two colleges to receive the 2008 MetLife Foundation Excellence Award.

“Recruiting and graduating a critical mass of Hispanic degree earners rarely happens without a specific and high-priority plan, with everyone working hard to connect all the dots. And keeping them connected,” said José López-Isa, publisher of Hispanic Outlook in High Education. “Many of the gains the list reflects would have been unlikely, even impossible, without your sustained, extra-mile efforts. We salute you.”

Recently, the college graduated more than 2,000 students, including 40 students from its Bachelor of Applied Technology Program. STC is one of three community colleges is the state allowed to offer bachelor’s degrees and the only community college in the state offering two bachelor’s degrees.

“South Texas College is making higher education the standard for students, not the exception and it is good to see the college getting the attention it deserves for its hard work and dedication,” said Keith Patridge, president and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation. “MEDC and STC are partners in the process and we look forward to continuing to work together to get more students into higher education and out into the local workforce, further driving our local economic prosperity.

For additional information about South Texas College visit: or call 956-872-8311.


UTPA Mini Baja team hopes to place high at June 11 – 14 international competition set for Quebec, Canada


There are high hopes for “Archipos” and the Mini Baja team from The University of Texas-Pan American to do well as they gear up to compete in the international Mini Baja competition, June 11-14 in Orford, Quebec in Canada. The UTPA team will be among 120 teams competing from the United States and around the world in the international competition.

Sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the object of the Mini Baja competition is to simulate real-world engineering design projects. Students work together to design, build, test, promote and race a vehicle within the limits of the rules.

Team Captain Joe Villanueva said this year’s design was started as soon as they came back from the competition last summer, which he feels will be critical to the team’s jump-start on the competition.

“Our goal was to complete the entire design of the vehicle by the end of August 2007. We did just that, benchmarking ourselves with schools placing in the top 10 and improving every component of the vehicle,” Villanueva said.

The overall weight of the vehicle was reduced by 40 percent – 145 pounds – from last year’s car, which placed 59th out of 130 teams. Villanueva said the vehicle is currently exhibiting features found on most top 10 cars such as fast acceleration, top speed, maneuverability and reliability.

“Our team truly believes that this vehicle is going to bring some recognition to UTPA and that it’s going to prove that we did plan out very well,” he said. “We had one goal in mind and that was winning this competition. I’m looking forward to proving to people that we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Although Villanueva wishes everyone who worked on the car could attend, only six team members will be able attend the competition in Canada next month, due to funding constraints. The UTPA Foundation recently generously agreed to fund the trip to the competition for the only female team member, Astrid K. Torres.

The team is composed of the following members: Dr. Arturo A. Fuentes, associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior adviser; Dr. Kamalaksha Sarkar, mechanical engineering lecturer and adviser; Villanueva; Torres; Julian Gutiérrez , co-captain; Humberto Rodríguez; Luis Domínguez, Eddie E. Pérez, Roberto Pérez, Victor Salinas, Nathaniel Olivarez and Eleazar Ruiz.

“We need as much assistance and support from the community as we can get,” Villanueva said. “Anybody interested in helping this already succeeding team would be able to help by providing means of transportation to and from competition, purchasing safety equipment, testing equipment, wheels, tires and even providing grounds for testing the vehicle. We would appreciate any type of support.”

Villanueva said he has learned a lot the past five years while participating in the Mini Baja competition because being part of the team has helped him mature as an adult and professional.

“When I first got into baja I came in scrubbing tires and just doing little things like that, but as I progressed I’ve been able to learn how to apply the knowledge and the skills that I learned in the classroom into a real project,” he said. “Allowing students to be able to practice those skills along with team management, project management, communication and presentational really does prepare you for industry.”

For Fuentes, serving as senior adviser of the team is rewarding because he gets to see students gain hands-on experience.

“Most of our students that have participated in the past with Mini Baja have commented that their participation in the team has been key to obtaining well paid jobs after they graduate and a lot of the people that are out there in industry actually see positive results from students who get involved in these types of activities,” Fuentes said. “It (Mini Baja) helps them in their interviews, it helps them when they start working and also it helps them when they take on new projects. This activity helps from the point of view of creating a budget for a project, creating a time line and then executing that time line with the budget that they have.”

The team’s current sponsors include Boeing; DeLeón Auto Accessories, McAllen; ER Paint & Body, Edinburg; Rod Works, Edinburg; and McAllen Motor Sports, McAllen.

For more information about the SAE or the Mini Baja competition, contact Fuentes at 956/316-7099.


State Senate committee looks at rising university tuition and tuition deregulation


Texas college students are taking out more student loans and are more likely to attend community college in the face of rising university tuition, according to Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Raymund Paredes.

Paredes joined the chairs of boards of regents at all Texas public university systems on Wednesday, May 28, in testifying before a meeting of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education considering the impact of tuition deregulation in 2003 on college participation.

"I would argue that the increase in cost of going to universities, which has been much steeper than the increase in cost of community college, has driven more students to select community colleges as a place to begin," he said.

Students are coping with increased tuitions in fees by taking out more loans, said Paredes.

"We’re now at the point where student indebtedness is reaching some very significant numbers," he said. He estimated that the average Texas public university graduate will owe between $15,000 and $16,000 dollars. This indebtedness is forcing alumni to search for higher paying jobs in order to pay off these loans, which hurts lower-paying public service fields, such as teaching.

The cost of one semester of tuition at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, has risen from $1975 in 2002 to $4012 today.

UT System Chairman of the Board of Regents H. Scott Cavin testified that much of this increase is offset by new financial aid programs, so while the price of education is up for more affluent students, students from poorer backgrounds have a better opportunity of attending college.

He also pointed to the fact that in spite of the tuition increase of about 25 percent across the UT system, applications and admissions have not decreased. Chairman on the University of Houston Board of Trustees Welcome Wilson said that higher tuition may force some students to attend a less expensive school within a university system. More students are enrolling at UH’s cheaper Downtown Campus than the main campus, he said.

Committee members charged the universities with finding new solutions to the rising cost of tuition.

"We must find other sources of revenue in order to fund higher education in the state of Texas," Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, told the board chairmen. "It is really important for you guys to start coming up with some ideas. We can’t keep taxing the students."


Former Mission City Manager Isauro Treviño among several sentenced to prison for accepting bribes

Isauro Treviño, the former City Manager of Mission and Joe Villegas, Mission’s former Director of Parks and Recreation, along with two contractors were sentenced on Wednesday, May 28, for accepting or paying bribes in exchange for favorable treatment in the awarding of city contracts, United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle announced.

At the hearing that afternoon, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Trevino, 36, to 48 months in federal prison, without parole, and fined him $50,000. The sentence represents an upward departure from the recommended but advisory sentencing guideline range of punishment. In upwardly departing, Crane found that Treviño was part of a “systematic and pervasive pattern of corruption” that resulted “in a loss of trust and public confidence in government.”

Crane further found that Treviño has received more than $90,000 in documented bribes and wondered how much he might have received in undocumented bribes. Treviño has been ordered to surrender to the United States Marshals Service on June 25, to begin serving his four-year sentence.

Villegas, 51, Mission’s former Director of Parks and Recreation, was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison and fined $20,000. The sentence represents the high end of the applicable guideline range of punishment.

Treviño and Villegas pleaded guilty in February to conspiring to commit extortion under color of official right.

“Neither good governance nor public service is for sale,” DeGabrielle said. “These prison sentences should so reassure our citizens and taxpayers.”

In sentencing Treviño, Crane found Treviño had accepted more than $90,000 in bribes in exchange for favorable treatment in the awarding and approval of various City of Mission projects while he served as city manager from 2002 through mid-2005. Treviño received free stucco at his Mission home during the fall of 2002 from then contractor partners Daniel Rodríguez and David Treviño, 44, no relation to the former city manager.

In 2003, Rodríguez and David Treviño were awarded a project from Mission for the construction of a skate park at Catholic War Veteran’s Park. Rodríguez has been convicted and sentenced to federal prison in another case arising from the same FBI operation that lead to the charges in this case.

The bribes attributed to Isauro Treviño also included numerous cash bribes from René Cavazos, 48, operator of Wrangler Construction and René Cavazos Trucking, whose companies received hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts from Mission, including projects for walking trails at city parks and for sludge removal.

Many of the projects Cavazos was awarded were split into phases to evade the public notice and City Council-approval requirements for projects in excess of $25,000. Cavazos typically gave cash payments to Isauro Trevino after receiving contracts from Mission, and Isauro Trevino deposited tens of thousands of dollars in payments from Cavazos into an account established at a McAllen bank in the name of his mother-in-law.

Villegas also regularly received cash from Cavazos after being awarded a Parks Department project and served as a conduit for Isauro Treviño’s bribes. Villegas would receive money from Cavazos for both himself and Treviño and pass the money along to Treviño.

Villegas also accepted three bids from an undercover FBI agent in January 2003 for athletic equipment at the Mission Adult Recreation Center. The FBI undercover agent submitted his own bid along with a fake or “dummy” bid which he told Villegas was “dummied up.” The undercover agent also submitted a third bid which was lower than another company’s bid that a Mission official had disclosed, thus allowing the undercover agent to come in as the low bidder.

Contractors Cavazos and David Treviño, who also stand convicted after pleading guilty to their role in this bribery scheme, were also sentenced on May 28 by Crane. Cavazos has been ordered to serve one year and a day in federal prison for paying bribes to Isauro Treviño and fined $50,000. David Treviño was sentenced to five years probation for providing free stucco for the renovation of Isauro Treviño’s home.

The case was investigated by special agents of the McAllen Office of the FBI and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Gregg Costa and Larry Eastepp.


Six individuals, Texas Democratic Party drop lawsuit against Texas over election code controversy


Six individual plaintiffs and the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday, May 28, agreed to drop a lawsuit that sought to prevent the Texas Attorney General from enforcing specific portions of the Election Code. After initially claiming that a law governing mail-in ballots was unconstitutional, the plaintiffs dropped their lawsuit just before a trial was scheduled to begin in federal District Judge T. John Ward’s East Texas courtroom.

The May 28 agreement to dismiss marked the latest in a string of victories for the State of Texas, which consistently maintained that its efforts to protect the integrity of the elections process were entirely constitutional.

“Election fraud is a serious crime that undermines our democratic system of government,” said Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican. “After more than a year and a half of pre-trial maneuvering and discovery the plaintiffs discovered that their claims were without basis in fact or law. Today’s dismissal marks an important victory for the integrity of the electoral process.”

The judge’s order dismissing the lawsuit was accompanied by a renewed commitment to ensure voters and political activists have access to information about important legal protections for seniors and disabled voters who rely upon mail-in ballots to mark their votes from home and cast them by mail.

Abbott added: “Our democratic process depends upon transparency, accountability and easy access to the ballot box. By continuing to educate voters and political activists about the law, the State of Texas will ensure that elderly and disabled voters are properly informed about legal protections that prevent over-reaching political activists from unlawfully applying pressure to mail-in ballot users.”

Six individual plaintiffs joined the Texas Democratic Party in an attempt to prevent authorities from enforcing a mail-in ballot law authored by then-State Rep. Steve Wolens, D-Dallas.

Passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the Texas House and Senate, Wolens’ legislation helps protect elderly and disabled voters who rely on others for assistance casting their votes.

The law essentially governs how mail-in ballots are handled by those who help elderly and disabled voters transport their votes to the local elections registrar.

To provide accountability, prevent coercion by purported assisters, and protect the integrity of marked ballots, the 2003 law basically requires that those who transmit others’ votes identify themselves by putting their names and addresses on the outside of the ballot envelope.

The plaintiffs’ attempt to challenge Wolens’ 2003 Texas Election Code amendments hinged on their claim that the law was intended to suppress certain voting groups. To the contrary, public comments by former Rep. Wolens, his “purpose was to eliminate fraud in absentee balloting.” According to the former state representative, both he and his wife, the former mayor of Dallas, were victims of “rigged elections with people harvesting votes.” Vote harvesting is a term typically associated with those who illegally stockpile mail-in ballots—which may belong to either actual voters or non-existent voters created by election fraud perpetrators—and therefore undermine the electoral process by casting multiple votes.

The May 28 dismissal concludes the plaintiffs’ year and a half long effort to stop the Attorney General from enforcing Election Code provisions that prevent fraud and coercion during the mail-in ballot process. The plaintiffs’ filed their lawsuit in September, 2006. In the days leading to the November 2006 election, the plaintiffs asked a federal district court to temporarily restrain the State from enforcing challenged Election Code provisions.

An earlier district court decision favoring the plaintiffs was stayed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which ruled that the state could continue enforcing election fraud prevention laws. The state scored a second victory when the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the plaintiffs’ appeal. Last January, Texas scored another victory when the Fifth Circuit once again issued a decision favoring the state, vacating an early injunction issued by the trial court.

After conducting months of pre-litigation maneuvering and discovery, during which the State produced thousands of documents, the plaintiffs offered to drop their lawsuit. Just days before the trial was scheduled to begin, the plaintiffs approached the state about resolving the dispute by dismissing their lawsuit against the Attorney General and working to improve voters’ access to information about State election laws. Before the court finalized the May 28 dismissal, the state read a mutually agreed-upon statement into the court record. That statement reiterated pre-existing policies and procedures that provide guidance to investigators with the Office of the Attorney General who investigate Election Code violations.

Although the May 28 dismissal concludes the plaintiffs’ attempt to prevent the Attorney General’s election fraud enforcement efforts, a facial challenge to Section 84.004 of the Election Code still remains before the court. That provision generally limits the number of early voting applications that a single individual can witness during an election cycle.

The state is not obligated to pay any attorneys fees or expenses in the wake of the plaintiff’s agreement to dismiss with prejudice. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, when a lawsuit is dismissed with prejudice, the plaintiffs are barred from bringing the same claims again in the future.


Ron Whitlock Reports, which covers Valley politics, added to KVEO-TV Channel 23 news presentations


News Center 23 (KVEO-TV) is proud to announce having established an affiliation with Ron Whitlock and to have the opportunity to air Ron Whitlock Reports. It isn’t often that a local television station has the chance to broadcast a local content program as prestigious, relevant and vital as Ron Whitlock Reports, and News Center 23 is fortunate to do so.

Ron’s illustrious career and past accomplishments certainly add credibility to News Center 23 as a critical information source for all Valley residents.

Whitlock has been in the broadcast business for more than 40 years. During the past nine years, he has hosted and produced his weekly 30-minute in-depth TV newsmagazine, "Valley Newsline with Ron Whitlock".

A native son of the Rio Grande Valley, Whitlock began his career in broadcasting in Raymondville in the 1960’s as a commercial manager. Early in his broadcast career, he worked in Falfurrias, where he learned trafficking, sales and promotions, and creating ads for his clients.

During the early 1970s, he was an account executive and news director at KRIO-AM in McAllen, and a television news anchor in the Rio Grande Valley and in Corpus Christi.

He has owned, operated, founded, and built three radio stations in Texas – Corpus Christi, Kerrville, and K-TEX FM 100 (then KDUV FM 100 located in Brownsville), the top FM station in the Valley.

He has won awards for "Texas Best Coverage" from the United Press; Special Service Award from Willacy-Hidalgo Soil & Water Conservation District No. 312, and other awards for news coverages of Hurricanes Inez, Beulah and Allen, which were all devastating to the Rio Grande Valley.

He has interviewed notable people of the past including President Johnson, President George H.W. Bush (Senior), Texas Governor John Connally, and Apollo 11 Mission Commander Neil Armstrong.

He continues to interview many notable federal and state leaders covering local/state/national elections; along with covering issues such as the Childrens’ Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the battles over tort reform, hurricane awareness, and the levees, among many other vital issues of the day.

Whitlock knows the needs of the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas, and the Mexico Border Region along the Rio Grande River and the Gulf Coast because this is his native home with his grandparents migrating here in the 1920s from Oklahoma to farm and raise a family.

He grew up here working in the cotton gins and in the fields picking cotton. He graduated from high school (PSJA), and then attended college in the Rio Grande Valley and in Kingsville, Texas.

In 2003, he launched the First Texas Political Video Interview Program on the Internet under the name “Valley Newsline with Ron Whitlock” or now “Ron Whitlock Reports” (RWR).

For more information on other stations that “Ron Whitlock Reports” will be syndicated throughout Texas in the next few months, or for his complete biography and archived video bradcasts, please log on to cities http://WWW.RONWHITLOCK.COM or http://WWW.KVEO.COM, which will link you to the website of RWR.

On Sunday, June 1, 2008, the show will be broadcast, in high-definition video, from 6:30 to 7 in the morning on Channel 23, Cable Channel 8 on Time Warner Cable, or Cable HD Channel 860 in high-definition, as well as the DirectTV satellite broadcasting system.


Sen. Hutchison urges refinery expansion to help alleviate gas prices


U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Texas’ senior senator, on Wednesday, May 28, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urging his department to expedite the regulation process for tax deductions to spur domestic refinery expansions. Hutchison included a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT), which provides a 50 percent tax deduction for domestic refineries that increase existing capacity by five percent or more.

Although EPACT became law in 2005, the Treasury Department has not approved the pending regulation, also known as Section 179 C.

“At this time when Americans are paying record high prices for fuel, the U.S. government is standing in the way of increasing supply,” said Hutchison. “This regulation, which encourages expansion of domestic refinery capacity, will increase the supply of fuel to alleviate prices at the pump.”

Hutchison sent a similar letter to Treasury in April 2007 when gasoline was $2.86 a gallon. Today, the national average is $3.94 a gallon.


May 28, 2008

The Honorable Henry M. Paulson


U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Secretary Paulson:

I write today to express my continued support for expedited approval of a pending regulation which awaits final approval at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Almost three years have passed since the Energy Policy Act of 2005 mandated that this regulation be finalized. American families need the relief that this regulation will provide now more than ever. Specifically, this regulation, Sec. 179C of the Internal Revenue Code, allows a refinery to expense up to 50 percent of the cost of a refinery expansion if the project increases overall capacity by at least five percent. As you may recall, I wrote to you in April 2007 when gasoline was $2.86 a gallon, diesel was $2.79 a gallon, and a barrel of oil was $64. Today, gasoline is $3.94 a gallon, diesel is $4.72 a gallon, and a barrel of oil exceeds $127.

At this time when Americans are paying record high prices for gasoline and diesel, the U.S. Government should do all it can to reduce these prices. This regulation, which encourages expansion of domestic refining capacity, will increase the supply of fuel to alleviate prices at the pump. Moreover, the longer refineries must wait for these regulations, the more uncertainty is added to their investment decisions to expand capacity. These regulations must be finalized as soon as possible to allow companies to plan for future construction.

I appreciate your efforts to date to finalize this regulation and encourage you to expedite its approval.


Kay Bailey Hutchison


New English Language Arts and Reading curriculum standards approved by State Board of Education

A less repetitive, more grade-level specific set of English Language Arts and Reading curriculum standards will go into use in Texas classrooms in the fall of 2009 after having been approved by the State Board of Education May 23 on a 9-6 vote.

The process of revising the 1997 standards began in 2005. Hundreds of teachers, numerous experts, national facilitators, and State Board of Education members worked on many drafts of the document over that time. The standards ultimately approved by the board represent a blending of a document crafted by teacher work groups, with the help of facilitators from StandardsWork, and a version drafted by a coalition of English teachers. Many of the same teachers worked on both documents.

“This document is a very good one. We know our teachers will use it. We hope you will embrace this document,” board member Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, said.

Other board expressed strong concerns about being asked to approve a draft document that emerged on the final day of deliberations. Consequently, the board agreed to go through the document page by page, spending several hours looking at the latest revisions. The often contentious, extensively debated adoption process ultimately resulted in standards that put more emphasis on the teaching of grammar than do the existing Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Also in a departure from the existing standards, the board agreed to provide Texas teachers with a list of “reading resources websites” that provides a compilation of reading materials, which teachers may use at their own discretion. Passage of the English Language Arts and Reading TEKS now creates a ripple effect throughout the Texas education system. Professional development on the new standards will be provided to teachers during the next school year. New textbooks and other instructional material based on the new TEKS will go into the classrooms in the fall of 2010 and 2011.

State standardized tests will ultimately reflect the new curriculum framework.

Work continues on standards for other curriculum areas. Teams of teachers are now working on revising curriculum standards for science and career and technical education. Social studies will then be the next content area addressed.


National Association of Hispanic Journalists to induct Juan González, Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez, Francisco Ramírez into Hall of Fame


Two of today’s most respected media diversity champions credited with helping to change the industry and a 19th century editor who broke new ground in his era will be inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Hall of Fame during this summer’s UNITY ‘08 convention – the nation’s industry’s largest gathering of journalists.

New York Daily News Columnist Juan González, University of Texas at Austin Professor Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez, Ph.D. and Francisco P. Ramírez, editor of El Clamor Público, Los Angeles’ first Spanish-language newspaper, will be inducted into the NAHJ Hall of Fame.

This year’s NAHJ Hall of Fame Gala starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 25th in the Chicago Ballroom of the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 301 East North Water Street, Chicago, Illinois during the UNITY ‘08 convention.

González, co-host of Democracy Now!, is a former NAHJ president, co-founder of UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc. and a fierce advocate against media consolidation, which NAHJ believes hurts minority media ownership and the quality of journalism. Rivas-Rodríguez, also an NAHJ founder, created student training programs 20 years ago emulated by other journalism associations and strongly advocates for improved coverage and inclusion of Latinos in media.

Ramírez founded El Clamor Público in the mid 19th century when he was 17 years old, shortly after California became part of the United States, giving a voice to long-established Mexicans faced with a new reality of becoming strangers in their own land. His newspaper, whose title in English means The Public Outcry, was a forceful advocate for equal rights for people of all races at a very turbulent time.

Created in 2000, NAHJ’s Hall of Fame is reserved for journalists and industry pioneers whose national or local efforts have resulted in a greater number of Latinos entering the journalism profession or have helped to improve news coverage of the nation’s Latino community.

The Hall of Fame Gala is one of NAHJ’s greatest traditions when the group pauses to celebrate the giants of the media industry,”

Because of González’ and Rivas-Rodríguez’ foresight and their activism, NAHJ is a leader in many ways – from creating innovative programs that serve as models for the entire industry to speaking out on Capitol Hill on legislation that impacts minority media owners.

With the induction of González, Ramírez and Rivas-Rodríguez, there are now 22 NAHJ Hall of Famers. Past honorees include such pioneering journalists as Rubén Salazar, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the news director of KMEX who was killed in East Los Angeles and Ignacio E. Lozano, Sr., who founded La Opinión, the nation’s largest Spanish-language daily newspaper.

Last year’s inductees were Cecilia Alvear, a former NAHJ president and retired senior producer for NBC; George Ramos, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with the Los Angeles Times, and Rigo Chacón, three-time Emmy winner and president of Rigo Chacón and Associates (RCA).

For more information about the NAHJ Hall of Fame Gala and about the UNITY’08 Convention to take place from July 23-27, 2008 in Chicago, please visit

Hall of Fame sponsors to date include State Farm Insurance.

For more information about sponsorship, please visit:

For ticket information, please visit:

Biographical information about the inductees:

Juan González is a prize-winning columnist at the New York Daily News, Brooklyn College instructor, author and co-host of Democracy Now!, a daily TV/radio news program airing on over 700 stations. Hispanic Business magazine named Gonzalez twice on its annual list of the nation’s 100 Most Influential Hispanics.

A co-founder of NAHJ and UNITY Journalists of Color, Gonzalez was NAHJ president from 2002-2004. During his term, NAHJ received a $1 million grant from the McCormick Foundation – the largest grant the association has ever received – to start the Parity Project, which helps English-language newsrooms better connect with the Latino community through town-hall meetings and actual hires. Today, the number of Latino journalists hired through the Parity Project is now at 143.

Francisco P. Ramírez was a teenager in 1855 when he founded El Clamor Público (The Public Outcry) Los Angeles’ third newspaper and the first one to be printed mainly in Spanish. A 2005 Los Angeles Times article said Ramírez adopted a surprisingly literary flair to his writing, quoting Latin poets and philosophers along with abolitionists of the day, with virtually no formal education. He has also been described as the self-style champion of Spanish Americans in California. He believed in racial equality and ran editorials condemning lynching.

After four years, the paper went bankrupt and Ramirez moved to Mexico for an editing job. In 1862, he returned to California as editor of San Francisco’s La Voz del Nuevo Mundo. Later, he served as Los Angeles’ postmaster and then became a state translator. Eventually, he practiced law in Los Angeles and was a successful lawyer and leading citizen until his death in 1908.

(Source: Felix Gutierrez, Professor of Journalism and Communication, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California)

Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez, Ph.D. is an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin and founder and director of the U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project. Rivas-Rodriguez gained national prominence after leading protests in 2007 against the PBS documentary about World War II. The film, which originally had excluded the stories of Hispanic veterans, was eventually modified. Her efforts forced PBS and other media outlets to pay greater attention to contributions of Hispanic veterans.

A former journalist who worked for major newspapers and a Dallas TV station, Rivas-Rodríguez developed the model for a student-produced convention newspaper now used by several professional journalism organizations to give students a taste of “real time” journalism. A founding member of NAHJ, Rivas Rodriguez is the recipient of numerous awards including NAHJ’s 2007 Leadership Award. She also received the Rubén Salazar Award for Communications from the National Council of La Raza in 2007.


With age comes a sense of peace and calm, UT study shows

Aging brings a sense of peace and calm, according to a new study from the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin. Starting at about age 60, participants reported more feelings of ease and contentment than their younger counterparts.

Catherine Ross and John Mirowsky, professors of sociology, have published the findings in "Age and the Balance of Emotions" in the May 19 issue of Social Science and Medicine. The research was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging.

The findings reveal aging is associated with more positive than negative emotions, and more passive than active emotions, Ross said.

Previous research on emotions associated with aging focused on negative emotions, such as depression. However, a second dimension underlying emotions is an active versus passive dimension, which is less studied, but may be important in explaining how emotions shift as people age, according to the researchers.

"The passive/positive combination reveals that contentment, calm and ease are some of the most common emotions people feel as they age," Ross said. "Emotions that are both active and negative, such as anxiety and anger, are especially unlikely among the elderly."

The study examined 1,450 responses to the 1996 U.S. General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, which included English-speaking people aged 18 and older. The gender distribution of the sample was 56 percent female and 44 percent male, and the racial distribution was 81 percent white, 14 percent African American and 5 percent other races.

Participants responded to statements such as "On how many days in the past seven days have you felt that you couldn’t shake the blues, felt sad, felt lonely, felt anxious and tense, felt worried, felt so restless that you couldn’t sit long in a chair, felt angry at someone, felt mad at someone, felt outraged at something somebody had done, felt calm, felt at ease, felt contented, felt happy, felt overjoyed by something, felt excited about or interested in something, felt proud, felt embarrassed, felt ashamed."

The researchers then grouped the emotions in four categories: active, passive, positive and negative.

Secondary findings reveal women had more negative than positive emotions, and more passive than active emotions than men. Also, participants with higher income and education levels had significantly more positive emotions than those with lower income and education levels.

For more information, contact: Jennifer McAndrew, College of Liberal Arts, 512-232-4730; Catherine Ross, professor of sociology, Population Research Center, 239-395-2941.


Titans of the Texas Legislature