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Edinburg announces construction of $50 million arena that will anchor major new development along U.S. Expressway 281

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Edinburg leaders, along with state legislators and top officials with The University of Texas System, were on hand in Harlingen at the UT Regional Academic Health Center on Wednesday, November 20, to participate in the symbolic distribution of almost $200 million for higher education in the Valley, including $124 million that will be used for the first major phase of a UT medical school in Edinburg. “These funds represent the fuel that will begin to power the economic engine that will drive South Texas into the future,” said Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, featured center. “This will unquestionably be the first of many distributions from the Permanent University Fund (PUF) which South Texas has long sought, more so deserved, and is finally receiving, thanks to decades of work by selfless leaders who dared to dream what has become a reality.” Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr. and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, Provost for the University of Texas-Pan American who also serves as a member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) Board of Directors, also participated in the public event. “This is just the beginning. The taps have been opened,” said Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr., who attended the mid-afternoon gathering. “This is such great progress for us. We know this is going to happen. And now, we start touching and feeling something solid and concrete. You know that we’re there, or getting there to that point of completion. We’re excited.” Rodríguez shared the sentiments. “It’s incredible. This is an opportunity to bring new students to the Rio Grande Valley, specifically to Edinburg, to ensure that they get an excellent education here,” he said. “In addition, we know that students that get medical degrees in a certain region, and do their medical residencies in a certain region, close to three-quarters of them remain in that region. So that means more doctors for the Rio Grande Valley.” Featured, from left: Ernest Aliseda of McAllen, a member of the UT System Board of Regents; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, President, The University of Texas-Pan American; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; and Rep. Robert “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen. See story later in this posting.

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Eliminating “Pan American” from the name of the new university/medical school system being developed for the Rio Grande Valley is not required by state law, and would devalue the diplomas of upwards of 70,000 alumni, says former Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen. The veteran lawmaker, featured here on Thursday, October 24, at the Student Union Building at The University of Texas-Pan American, has shared his reasons in a letter, dated November 29, addressed to Paul L. Foster, Chairman of the UT System Board of Regents. That landmark legislation – which includes the Valley’s other state senators and state representatives as joint authors or cosponsors – requires the University of Texas System to establish a new university and medical school that will combine the talent, assets and resources of UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville and the UT Regional Academic Health Centers in Edinburg, Harlingen and Brownsville. But first, the new university needs a name, and Senate Bill 24 places the responsibility of selecting the name on the nine-member UT System Board of Regents, which includes Ernest Aliseda of McAllen. SB 24, authored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and sponsored by Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, was approved earlier this year by the Texas Legislature. “Sadly, there is a broad misconception that SB 24 prohibits keeping the name The University of Texas-Pan American or Pan American,” Gutiérrez noted. “Many alumni have revealed to me that they have not spoken out because they have been led to believe that abolishing that name ‘is a done deal.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.” See story later in this posting.

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More than 20 news media outlets from across the state ran stories about The University of Texas System Board of Regents’ unanimous decision on Thursday, November 14, to send $196 million from the Permanent University Fund to South Texas. Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., the Chancellor of the UT System, has helped champion the creation of a UT medical school in the Valley in part by being readily accessible to news reporters. In this image, taken at the UT-Pan American Student Union Building on Thursday, October 24, Cigarroa was interviewed by Laura García, who writes for the Valley Town Crier, the Edinburg Review, and http://www.YourValleyVoice.com, and Daniela Díaz, who writes for the Monitor in McAllen. The PUF appropriations will construct new facilities in Cameron and Hidalgo counties, including a $70 million Science Building at UT-Pan American and a $54 million UT medical school classroom building in Edinburg, as part of the UT System initiative to establish a new university and medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. The regents’ vote was historic because it marks the first time PUF money will go to South Texas.

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On the heels of successful programs to increase funding for research at UT’s emerging research institutions, The University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously voted Thursday, November 14, to begin a similar program for UT System’s four comprehensive universities. The regents authorized $1 million from the Permanent University Fund to begin the UT System Research Incentive Program for the Comprehensive Universities, or UTrip-CU. The UT System’s comprehensive universities include UT-Brownsville, UT-Pan American, UT-Permian Basin and UT-Tyler. The UTrip-CU money will be used to augment philanthropic gifts that support research at these four institutions. Ernest Aliseda of McAllen, featured third from left in this image taken at UT-Pan American on Thursday, October 24, is one of the nine regents serving on the UT governing board. Featured, from left: Rudy Ramirez, Executive Director, Edinburg Housing Authority; Debbie Crane Aliseda, President, McAllen School Board; Ernest Aliseda, Member, UT System Board of Regents; Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia; Hidalgo County Precint 2 Commissioner Héctor “Tito” Palacios; and Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., Chancellor, The University of Texas System. See story later in this posting.

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A new state law to ensure punishment for online predators who use Internet communications to “groom” children for sexual assault will be among the legislative priorities for Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, featured with one of his children, Terry Andrés Canales II. “As a parent, I want to make sure that law enforcement has every tool necessary to catch and prosecute online predators,” he said. “Next session (in 2015), I will work with my fellow lawmakers to pass legislation that will not fall victim to a legal argument that the law violates the First Amendment right of free speech, as we have recently seen. I feel it is of the utmost importance that the Texas Legislature passes a viable and enforceable law to punish online predators in order to protect our children.” The proliferation of child predators using the Internet to target young victims has become a national crisis, according to the Office of the Texas Attorney General. A study shows one in seven children will be solicited for sex online in the next year. See story later in this posting.

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Longtime public servant and community activist Elvia Ríos, 64, earlier this fall officially filed for Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, Place 2 in Hidalgo County for the March 2014 Democratic Party primary election. Lupe Silva (Aboud) is her campaign treasurer. Ríos, who was born and raised in McAllen, said if elected, she plans to be a proactive judge who works with educators, community groups, and law enforcement to address situations that lead to the cases heard in court. “My strong sense of fairness and integrity will guide both my campaign and judicial decisions,” Ríos said. “I welcome the community’s input and plan to take advantage of every opportunity to go out and meet the citizens of Precinct 2, Place 2. The time is right for me to give back to my community.” Ríos said she views the Justice of the Peace court as “the people’s court.” The Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, Place 2 covers McAllen, Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, and the City of Hidalgo. JPs perform the functions of a magistrate and conduct inquests. A justice of the peace presides over truancy cases, traffic violations, hears civil suits under $10,000, issues arrest warrants, and performs marriages. See story later in this posting.

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The leadership of the 2013-2014 Board of Directors for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce was recently announced as part of that organization’s work on behalf of the community. The new board members were formally welcomes during the group’s annual Installation Banquet, held at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center on Thursday, October 24. Dina Araguz, seated, center, who is the immediate past Chair of the Board of Directors, and Robert McGurk, standing, right, is the new Chair of the Edinburg Chamber’s governing board, are featured in this image. “I am very excited about our new Board of Directors,” said McGurk, who is Vice President of Elsa State Bank and Trust Co. in Edinburg. “We have a great group of individuals who are passionate about the Chamber and the City of Edinburg. We will continue to move forward and strengthen our bond with the community, our partners and the members we serve.” Featured, seated, from left: Jennifer Garza, Chief Executive Officer, Edinburg Regional Medical Center; Dina Araguz, Branch Manager, International Bank of Commerce in Edinburg; and Lucy Canales, Partner, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP. Standing, from left: Jacob De León, Funeral Director, Memorial Funeral Home; Martin V. Baylor, Vice President for Business Affairs, The University of Texas-Pan American; and Edinburg Municipal Judge Toribio “Terry” Palacios, Chair-Elect of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Senior Partner, Law Office of García, Quintanilla & Palacios in McAllen; and Robert McGurk.McGurk has previously served as a Loaned Executive for United Way of South Texas, the Texas Association of Sports Officials, City of Edinburg Architecture Review Board, Edinburg Kiwanis Board (President), and Weslaco Kiwanis Board (President). He currently serves as the Chairman of the City of Edinburg Planning and Zoning Commission.

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More than 170 community members and other local leaders attended the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce’s annual Installation Banquet at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center, held on Thursday, October 24, which included the appointment of the chamber’s Board of Directors for 2013-2014. Several of the top leaders for the governing board included, from left: Elva Jackson Garza, a former member of the Board of Directors for Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and Vice President and Marketing Manager, Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; Maggie Kent, Individual Member; and Marissa Castañeda, Chief Operations Officer, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Standing, from left: J.J. Flores, Chorizo De San Manuel, Inc.; Greg Martin: Martin Farm & Ranch Supply Inc., Hiren Govind, Best Western Plus-Edinburg Inn and Suites; and Marty Martin, DR – Broker, Rio Valley Realty.

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The Board of Directors of the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce recently attended a strategic planning session, focusing on updating the group’s program of work, updating their image, and improving their member benefits. They discussed the chamber’s mission statement and founding principles, which focus on helping the small business owner.  Since then, the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has obtained both small and large members from throughout the Valley as well as corporate partners, both local and national.  In refreshing their image, a new chamber logo was approved. More information on the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and membership is available by calling 928-0060.  The offices are located at 3313 N. McColl Road in McAllen. Featured with the new logo are, front row, from left, RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce leaders Jenise Díaz, Vice Chair of Public Relations; Adelita Muñoz, Vice Chair of Women’s Issues; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC President and CEO; Ronnie Bernal, Chair Elect; Marti Miller, Secretary; and Yoli Gonzalez, Vice Chair of Events.  Back row, from left: Hari Namboodiri, Advisory Board; Travis French, Vice Chair of Small Business & Economic Development; Brent Smith, Treasurer; Pete Morales, Vice Chair of International Affairs and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, Vice Chair of Education.

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Leadership Edinburg (LE) Class XXV recently completed a series of seminars designed to help its members gain knowledge in areas that have a direct impact on their community. One of their goals involves raising money to complete projects relating to the improvement of the historic Southern Pacific Depot, which serves as the home for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Featured in this image, taken at the Central Station of the Edinburg Fire Department, are, kneeling, from left: Ramiro Rodríguez, Edinburg Fire Department; Serafín Castro, Magic Valley Electric Cooperative; Karen K. Pittman, International Bank of Commerce; and Frank Arévalo, Elsa State Bank & Trust Co. in Edinburg. Standing, from left: Agustín Lozano, Jr., Bert Ogden Dealer Group; Brittany N. Sawyer, Card Service Providers; Nicolás A. Lerma, Card Service Providers; and Jonathan J. Voje. The University of Texas-Pan American; Stephanie Ozuna, The University of Texas Pan- American; Barbara C. Reynolds, Echo Hotel & Conference Center; Mario García, South Texas Independent School District-BETA; Rogelio E. Chanes, Teach for America-Rio Grande Valley Office; and Mario Lizcano, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. See story later in this posting.

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The City of Edinburg and The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation on Friday, November 1, announced plans for the construction of an events arena to be built just off Interstate 69 Central (U.S. Expressway 281). The announcement, which included Edinburg City Councilmember Richard Molina, featured left, and Edinburg City Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr. was made during a press conference held at Edinburg City Hall. Mayor Richard H. García noted that not only will this project enhance the economy by millions of dollars but it will also improve the quality of life for Edinburg residents and visitors. “People want to visit and live in cities where they can get educated, where they can work and where they can play. We’ve created more than 3,500 jobs in the last three years, we have the University of Texas-Pan American about to become an even larger UT system campus complete with a medical school. Now, we will also have a place for entertainment.” City leaders say the arena will not only host professional basketball games and other sporting events but will also serve as a location for concerts, graduations and meetings. A name for the arena has not been determined, but the Edinburg mayor says that in itself will create investment opportunities for companies. The 115,799 square-foot arena will be built on 40 acres of land located on the east side of I-69C on Alberta Road. It will feature 8,500 seats and 2,400 parking spaces. The entire property includes nine additional pad sites for the development of a future hotel, restaurants and more parking spaces. Construction cost for the arena is estimated at $50 million with a boost to the local economy of $96 million during the construction phase and $45 million annually once operational. It is expected to create approximately 150 new jobs. See lead story in this posting.

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