Featured: Representing Santa Cruz Properties, located at 2812 North Closner, during its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, October 22, 2015, are, from left: Anna L. Villarreal, Accounting; Lily Almazán, Sales; Carroll Ruppert, wife of Richard “Dick” Ruppert, Founder/Chief Executive Officer; Krys R. Weyand, Chief Financial Officer and daughter of Richard “Dick” Ruppert; Richard “Dick” Ruppert, Founder/Chief Executive Officer; Cathy R. Helgeson, Collections and daughter of Richard “Dick” Ruppert; Ana Vandever, Loan Officer; Frances Garza, Quality Control Officer; and Irma Moreno, Account Manager. Not pictured is Kyle D. Ruppert, Chief Operations Officer and son of Richard “Dick” Ruppert. Richard “Dick” Ruppert is a member of the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.
Photograph COURTESY ANA VANDEVER
Construction and related building activities in Edinburg through the first 10 months of 2015 reached almost $115 million, with building permits for work valued at more than $14.6 million being issued for the month of November, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. Both of those 2015 figures are ahead of the pace for the same periods last year, when total construction activities from January through October 2014 came in at almost $109.1 million, and more than $5.1 million for October 2014. The value of construction of new homes for the first 10 months of 2015 leads all year-to-date categories, amounting to almost $40 million, compared with almost $30 million from January through October 2014. Two major entities – Bert Ogden Motors and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance – were issued building permits for the most valuable construction projects for October 2015, according to the city’s Code Enforcement Department, according to the EEDC. Bert Ogden Motors is building a facility, located at 4004 S. I-69 Central, valued at $5.6 million, while Doctors Hospital at Renaissances received two separate building permits, valued at $3.8 million and $200,000, for commercial additions/repairs, both at 5501 S. McColl Road. Edinburg MOB Properties LLC also was issued a building permit for commercial additions/repairs, valued at $250,000, for a facility located at 4302 S. Sugar Rd. Ste. 206. In addition, MG Kamel Properties, LTC received a building permit for new commercial construction, valued at $200,000, for a structure at 4351 S. McColl Road. The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. The EEDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Ruppert as Members. Richard García and Agustín García, Jr. are not related. A building permit includes the estimated value of the work, but does not include the costs of the lot, equipment and furnishings. In general, a building permit is legal permission given by the City of Edinburg to erect, construct, renovate, maintain, or conduct any other specified activity on any building or structure, or on any installations or facilities therein. The term “building permit” includes but is not limited to building permits, electrical permits, mechanical permits, and plumbing permits.
Featured, from left, facing camera: Letty Reyes, Director of Business Development & Public Affairs, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Board of Directors, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; City Councilmember David Torres; and Agustín García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, as they met with leaders with major retail outlets during the statewide convention of the International Council of Shopping Centers, held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, on Wednesday, November 4, through Friday, November 6, 2015. Mayor Pro Tem Homer Jasso, Jr., Ellie Torres, Vice President of the EEDC Board of Directors, and Diego Reyna, Research Analyst, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, are not in this image, but they also participated in the statewide convention.
Photograph By DIEGO REYNA
A proposed ban on smoking in public facilities and most privately-owned businesses could soon become law in Edinburg, with city leaders confident such an action would help economic development as well as improve public health, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, the Mayor and Edinburg City Council, during their regular meeting held at Edinburg City Hall, held a public hearing on a plan by the city to change the existing city ordinance in order to prohibit smoking in government buildings, as well as in at least 21 types of businesses, ranging from bars, motion picture theaters, and childcare and adult daycare facilities to restaurants, retail stores, and sports arenas. The measure, which still faces final action by the Mayor and City Council to make it official, is scheduled for the Tuesday, December 1, 2015 regular city council meeting. If approved, as currently worded, the proposed ordinance would carry up to a $2,000 fine upon conviction for what would be classified as a misdemeanor crime. However, the proposed ban would not affect smoking in a person’s residence, outdoor seating areas of a restaurant that are designated as smoking areas, private clubs which are not businesses, and would allow hotels and motels to set aside up to 25 percent of their rooms for smokers. No one spoke against the proposed smoking ban during the public hearing, with almost two dozen area residents showing up in favor of the smoking ban. If approved in its current form, the proposed ban would be in line with recent federal government report that smoke-free laws do not hurt restaurant and bar businesses, said Mark Iglesias, President of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. The EEDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Ruppert as Members. “In partnership with the Mayor and Edinburg City Council, the EEDC Board of Directors and staff take very seriously our roles in improving the quality-of-life in our community, such as having helped bring a University of Texas medical school to our community, to protecting the public health while promoting the prosperity of our businesses,” said Iglesias. “One of the largest studies by the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that smoking bans benefit the public and businesses.” The CDC is one of the major operating components of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mayor García emphasized the smoking ban is being considered because it is the duty of the Mayor and City Council, to protect the health, safety, welfare, and wellbeing of its citizens. “Numerous studies have found that tobacco smoke is a major contributor to indoor air pollution, and that breathing secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke) is a cause of disease in healthy nonsmokers, including heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, lung cancer,” the mayor said, citing information provided by city staff. The National Cancer Institute determined in 1999 that secondhand smoke is responsible for the early deaths of approximately 53,000 Americans annually, he added. “City staff has met with representatives of the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society and has discussed with other cities in our region, including Brownsville, Harlingen, and Brownsville, and elsewhere in Texas,” Mayor García said. “After review of the (smoking ban) studies and discussions as noted, the City of Edinburg finds that smoking tobacco is a form of air pollution, is a danger to health, and is a material public nuisance.” Agustín García, Jr., EEDC’s Executive Director, praised the Mayor and City Council for always considering high profile issues in the best interests of the public and of local businesses. “The quality-of-life of a city such is important in order to keep local businesses and bring in new businesses, because the public health resources and public health policies of a community are as important to businesses and their employees as are education, transportation, and public safety when deciding to expand, relocate, or set up a new firm in Edinburg,” the EEDC Executive Director said.
Featured: Lorena Sáenz González, a McAllen native, graduate of The University of Texas-Pan American with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and a Master of Education Degree in Educational Administration, who was a former teacher and administrator with the Edinburg and McAllen school districts, on Friday, November 20, 2015, with her husband, attorney Vicente González, D-McAllen, founder of the Law Office of V. González & Associates, P.C., as he announced his candidacy for Texas Congressional District 15 to succeed retiring U.S. Representative Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes.
Photograph By STEVE TAYLOR
Democrat Vicente González, a McAllen attorney who has protected South Texans against dishonest insurance companies, and has fought to provide healthy school buildings for students, on Friday, November 20, 2015, announced his candidacy to succeed retiring Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, to represent the people of Texas’ 15th Congressional District. “Our campaign is about getting the 15th District represented by someone who is capable of fighting and winning,” he said. “I have been doing just that for almost two decades”. González, 48, said he has the proven skills, energy, and experience needed to successfully champion the best interests of residents from all walks-of-life. “My education and professional achievements in representing homeowners, school districts, consumers and clients in their legal and business affairs, along with my experiences as a small business owner, uniquely qualify me for the position of congressman,” González said. He founded the Law Office of V. González & Associates, P.C. in 1997. Since then, his primary focus in law has been fighting for what he calls “victims of dishonest corporations”. González’ law firm has led litigation against some of the largest corporations in the world, with his work resulting in tens of millions of dollars in successful recoveries for his clients in recent years. He said that if he can successfully fight and win against the most powerful businesses, “I can certainly do the same in Washington, D.C. for Texas’ Congressional District 15.” Texas’ 15th Congressional District, in which Hidalgo County has the largest population, stretches from McAllen and Edinburg northward to include Jim Hogg, Brooks, Duval, Live Oak, Karnes, Wilson and Guadalupe counties. An estimated 700,000 residents live in the congressional district. As congressman, González said he would effectively serve constituents because he is capable of bringing jobs, fostering a favorable business environment that will create good, high-paying jobs, increase higher education resources and opportunities, and bettering the quality-of-life. “Our campaign is about Texas families who work 40 hours a week every week and still can’t make ends meet. We need more jobs and more higher wage jobs in our region. I will work to reach those goals and more,” said González, who said he came “from very humble beginnings” to achieve the American Dream. “I will tirelessly fight to protect U.S. programs that help the middle-class and the poor,” he promised. He emphasized his legislative efforts in Congress also would focus on helping women overcome obstacles in the workplace. “It’s about women getting equal pay for equal work. It’s about women getting paid maternity leave because that is right and just,” González said. “In this day and age, we cannot allow our mothers, our sisters, our daughters – any person – to be treated unfairly, including in the work place.” He was joined by his wife, Lorena Sáenz González, in providing the media with highlights of his platform. Democrats and Republicans will hold their party primaries in early March 2016 to nominate their candidates for the November 2016 election, which will determine who will be the new congressman/congresswoman for District 15 beginning in January 2017. The term of a U.S. congressman is for two years.
Featured: Ramiro Peña, a graduate student of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, proudly displays two paintings of Edinburg hometown war hero Alfredo “Freddy” González that will be converted into two large-scale murals at the Edinburg H-E-B on West Freddy González Drive. The 8-foot by 12-1/2-foot murals will be completed by May 2016. Photo By PAUL CHOY
If it weren’t for the insistence of Ramiro Peña’s wife that he go back to school, he would not have earned a bachelor’s degree, and he probably would not be working toward his Master of Fine Arts at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. “At the time, she was making more money than I was and told me it was time for me to go off and get my degree. She told me, ‘I will support you,’” Peña said. Peña is the epitome of a non-traditional student – married, with children, 45 years old, and with a two-decade career behind him. His wife, Alma, a first-grade teacher in Weslaco, told him it was her turn to help him achieve his dream of earning a degree and pursue his love of art. So he quit his 19-year job at Magic Valley Electric Cooperative and became a college student again, studying 2D art and taking every opportunity offered to enhance his craft – from studying abroad in Italy to working with art professors to perfect his style, which he refers to as “realism.” “With my wife’s encouragement, I decided to take that leap of faith and come back to school,” Peña said. “It was a difficult decision, because I had my doubts.” Still, Peña, who lives in Donna, gave it his best and earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2013 from The University of Texas-Pan American, a UTRGV legacy institution. Before graduating with honors, Peña produced an undergraduate art exhibit titled “The Silent Departed Heroes,” which pays tribute to more than a dozen service members who enlisted in the U.S. military to gain U.S. citizenship and were killed in combat in the process. He says the series of portraits allowed him a deeper appreciation for the men and women who serve and protect the United States. “The idea was to keep the humanistic quality behind it. So I had to be very sensitive to that and not lose that in my interpretation of them and their service to our country,” he said. As a graduate student, Peña now continues his salute to veterans through a commission by Edinburg H-E-B at 2700 W. Freddy González Drive, to develop one of the biggest art projects he has ever undertaken – two 8-foot by 12-1/2 foot murals honoring Edinburg hometown war hero Alfredo “Freddy” Gonzalez. A U.S. Marine Corps platoon sergeant, González was killed on February 4, 1968, at the Battle of Hue in Vietnam. He was posthumously bestowed the Medal of Honor, and in 1996, a Navy guided missile destroyer, the USS Gonzalez, was commissioned. The murals will be displayed at the store, and the large-scale artwork will be completed by May 2016. On Veterans Day, November 11, 2015, the store unveiled two small-scale versions of Peña’s mural artwork during a celebration honoring veterans. Dolia González, Freddy’s mother and an H-E-B employee, will be given the smaller versions of the paintings once the larger murals are completed.
Featured: Richard M. Hinojosa, who was selected Edinburg City Manager on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 by the Mayor and City Council.
Photograph: EDINBURG CABLE NETWORK
After conducting interviews earlier in the month with several outstanding candidates, the Mayor and Edinburg City Council on Thursday, November 10, 2015, unanimously offered the position of city manager to Richard M. Hinojosa, who brings more than 40 years of municipal government experience to help continue leading his hometown on its remarkable growth and economic prosperity. Hinojosa, who accepted the offer pending final negotiations on his contract, will succeed Ramiro Garza, Jr., who announced earlier this year that he would be leaving city employment by January 1, 2016 in order to pursue other endeavors. Pending negotiations, Hinojosa’s first day on the job will be December 2, 2015. One of his first duties will be to find a new Planning and Zoning Director – the city position he currently holds. Mayor Richard García said Hinojosa’s experience speaks for itself. “Mr. Hinojosa is very well rounded as far as knowing how cities function,” the mayor said. “He has the qualifications to keep this well-oiled machine running forward smoothly.” Hinojosa was in the audience in the City Council Chambers at Edinburg City Hall when the mayor and city council returned from executive (closed) session and announced in open session that they had made their choice on who will be responsible for a staff of more than 700 professionals and a $100 million annual operating budget. “I offer the motion to have the city attorney negotiate (the employment contract) with the new city manager, and I select Richard Hinojosa,” said Mayor Pro Tem Homer Jasso, Jr. His motion was seconded by Councilmember J.R. Betancourt, with the mayor, Councilmember Richard Molina, and Councilmember David Torres then also voting for the Jasso measure. “Congratulations, sir,” the mayor addressed Hinojosa, who was seated in the audience. “Would you accept it?” “Yes, sir!” Hinojosa responded, drawing applause from the mayor, city council and audience members. The mayor, who also serves on the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, said Hinojosa’s selection “offers continuity, which is very important, with all the growth and projects that are in place, and that are moving forward, because they require stability and experience.” The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr., is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. The EEDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Ruppert as Members. Mayor García and EEDC Executive Director Agustín García, Jr. are not related. Agustín García, Jr. noted that Hinojosa has played key roles with numerous EEDC business development efforts. “We have worked with him, from the planning and zoning perspective, on many of the projects of the EEDC, and he is familiar with all of the engineering and other requirements to get things done in Edinburg,” the EEDC Executive Director further illustrated. “He always has worked very well with the EEDC. A function of the EEDC is to help expedite projects, and our first call is to call Planning and Zoning to see what can be done to help these projects get moving,” Agustín García, Jr. continued. “Mr. Hinojosa has always been accommodating and helped us achieve that success, that is one of the reasons EEDC has been triumphant, because we have such a strong working relationship, not only with the city, but with the Planning and Zoning Department.” Equally important, Hinojosa’s selection will allow the new city manager to implement his own vision of public service that will serve very well both his hometown and fellow city staff members. “I am sure that over the years he has developed the efficiencies that he will want to implement as city manager,” Agustín García, Jr. predicted. “He also understands the culture and the morale at City Hall. He knows who performs well. He has done very well.”