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Featured: As Dr. Lino García, Jr., Ph.D., approached his 84th birthday in January, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Professor Emeritus of Spanish Literature said change is what keeps him motivated. García has ridden waves of major change in the Rio Grande Valley’s higher education offerings, going back to his college days in the 1960s at Pan American College, to UTRGV and its sprawling distributed-campus university that serves some 28,000 students throughout the Valley and beyond. He started working at Pan American College in 1967 as a Spanish instructor. Fifty years later, he is still teaching with the same enthusiasm for his students and their success. The Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council, along with the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and its Board of Directors, lobby the Texas Legislature and the UT System Board of Regents on matters that benefit and protect UTRGV and its School of Medicine, which have major campuses in the city. 

Photograph By PAUL CHOUY

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Edinburg’s retail economy in February 2018 registers more than 11 percent improvement over same month in 2017, according to Edinburg Economic Development Corporation

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Edinburg’s retail economy during February 2018 registered an 11.09 improvement over the same month in 2017, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

The Edinburg EDC, of which Joey Treviño is the Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of Mayor Richard Molina, Mayor Pro-Tem David Torres, Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr., Councilmember Gilbert Enríquez, and Councilmember Jorge Salinas.

The Edinburg EDC Board of Directors is comprised of Councilmember Enríquez as President, Edinburg School Board Trustee Miguel “Mike” Farías as Vice-President, Councilmember Salinas as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Molina and Mayor Pro Tem Torres as Members.

The amount of local sales taxes collected helps reflect the strength of an economy, along with construction activities, per capita income, education, historical performances, and related trends.

The local sales tax is also used in Edinburg to help pay for many city services, while the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation uses its one-half cent local sales tax to help generate economic development in the city.

Edinburg’s retail economy in February 2018 produced $1,714,807.48 in local sales taxes, compared to $1,543,532.91 in February 2017 – for the increase of 11.09 percent.

Under the reporting system maintained online by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, for all public entities which generate local sales taxes, year-to-date totals begin in November of each year.

BetweenNovember 2017 and February 2018, Edinburg’s retail economy has generated $7,226,059.23 in local sales taxes, compared with $6,888,933.94 from November 2016 and February 2017, an improvement of 4.89 percent.

In terms of local sales tax revenue for February 2018, McAllen led all major Valley cities with $4,548,115.57, while Brownsville was second ($2,951,978.29), Harlingen was third ($1,964,996.48), and Edinburg was fourth ($1,714,807.48).

The sales tax, formally known as the State Sales and Use Tax, is imposed on all retail sales, leases and rentals of most goods, as well as taxable services. Texas cities, counties, transit authorities and special purpose districts have the option of imposing an additional local sales tax for a combined total of state and local taxes of 8 1/4% (.0825).

All data, which under the reporting system used by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, begin in November of each year and end in October of the following year.

How Key Valley Cities Performed In February 2018 and February 2017

All figures are based on sales made in February 2018 by businesses that report tax monthly, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, that he would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $651 million in local sales tax allocations, five percent more from the February 2017 local sales tax collections.

The local sales tax data is among the latest economic barometers featured in a detailed summary provided by the state comptroller’s office.

Among its many duties, the Texas Comptroller’s office is the state’s chief tax collector, accountant, revenue estimator and treasurer.

Based on the amount of sales taxes generated, according to the state comptroller’s office, the Valley’s major cities ranked accordingly in the following local sales tax figures:

February 2018 compared with February 2018

• McAllen: $4,548,115.57, up 7.76 percent compared with February 2017 ($4,220,301.45);
• Brownsville: $2,951,978.29, up 6.06 percent compared with February 2017 ($2,783,246.54);
• Harlingen: $1,964,996.48, up 9.77 percent compared with February 2017 ($1,790,066.39);
• Edinburg: $1,714,807.48, up 11.09 percent compared with February 2017 ($1,543,532.91);
• Pharr: $1,381,333.15, up 9.28 percent compared with February 2017 ($1,263,945.96);
• Mission: $1,117,694.58, up 2.65 percent compared with February 2017 ($1,088,753.10); and
• Weslaco: $945,255.95, up 3.33 percent compared with February 2017 ($914,705.80).

November 2017 through February 2018, compared with November 2016 through February 2017

Under the reporting system maintained online by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, for all public entities which generate local sales taxes, year-to-date totals begin in November of each year.

From November 2017 through February 2018, based on the amount of sales taxes generated, compared with November 2016 through February 2017, the Valley’s major cities ranked accordingly in the following local sales tax figures:

• McAllen: $20,914,108.82, from November 2017 through February 2018, up 4.86 percent compared with November 2016 through February 2017 ($19,943,498.88);

• Brownsville: $12,765,388.28, up 5.59 percent from November 2017 through February 2018, compared with November 2016 through February 2017 ($12,089,022.63);

• Harlingen: $8,539,271.19, from November 2017 through February 2018, up 8.99 percent compared with November 2016 through February 2017 ($7,834,489.17);

• Edinburg: $7,226,059.23, from  November 2017 through February 2018, up 4.89 percent compared with November 2016 through February 2017 ($6,888,933.94);

• Pharr: $6,001,821.56, from November 2017 through February 2018, up 10.10 percent compared with November 2016 through February 2017 ($5,451,228.69);

• Mission: $5,042,783.86, from November 2017 through February 2018, up 0.74 percent compared with November 2016 through February 2017 ($5,005,252.25); and

• Weslaco: $4,108,944.93, from November 2017 through February 2018, up 2.94 percent compared with November 2016 through February 2017 ($3,991,385.14).

For details on local sales taxes generated in February 2018 by individual cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose districts, visit the Comptroller’s Monthly Sales Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports.

EMBRACING CHANGE: DR. LINO GARCÍA, JR., UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY PROFESSOR EMERITUS, REFLECTS ON 50 YEARS OF CULTURAL AND INTELLECTUAL GROWTH

Most people find it difficult to adjust to change. But not Dr. Lino García, Jr., Ph.D.

As his 84th birthday loomed, García said the essence of change still keeps him motivated.

“Change is what pushes us,” he said. “Everything has an avenue in how it moves, and it’s always changing for the better.”

García has ridden waves of major change in the Rio Grande Valley’s higher education offerings, going back to his college days in the 1960s at Pan American College, to now – to UTRGV and a sprawling distributed-campus university that serves some 28,000 students throughout the Valley and beyond.

He started working at Pan American College in 1967 as a Spanish instructor. Fifty years later, he is still teaching.

“My students give me a youthful energy and they inspire me every day,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed helping my students, and there are plenty of obstacles in place already so I don’t create more difficulty for them. They need to go out into the world and do what they’re meant to do.”

Throughout the years, García has taught courses in Golden Age Spanish Literature, Poetry and Drama, Medieval Spanish Literature, and Mexican Literature. He has written countless articles on Colonial Spain and its influence on Texas, and on the impact of Spanish-American literature. He also has spoken at multiple conferences and symposiums around the world, something he continues to this day.

Education wasn’t always his professional track, though. After his service in the U.S. Navy ended in 1956, García began to pursue a law degree.

“I wanted to be an FBI agent,” he said. “I took courses in criminology after getting my B.A. from St. Mary’s in San Antonio, but then our daughter was born and I needed a job to support my family.”

García popped into nearby Peacock Military Academy in San Antonio to see if there were any options for immediate employment. With his educational background in history, economics and Spanish, García figured he could find something quickly to sustain his family.

“They asked if I had experience in teaching Spanish – which I did – so I became a Spanish instructor,” he said. “The very first day I was teaching my students, I realized I was exactly where I wanted to be.”

Early Life

As he talked about his childhood – García was born in 1934 in Brownsville – a patchwork of memories came rushing in.

His father worked in a grocery store all his life, and his mother was a stay-at-home mom. They had eight children, García said, and each one of them got a good education – and always had decent shoes to wear.

He always had a studious mind, he said, and that meant he was the target of occasional bullying.

“I minded my manners and I didn’t cuss,” García said. “I went to school with my sister, so she protected me.”

They lived in a happy neighborhood, he said, and his family would dress up for Charro Days, the annual pre-Lenten festival that to this day celebrates the symbiosis between the border cities of Brownsville and Matamoros.

He grew up watching movies on the weekends. Five cents a ticket. The old westerns were his favorite, and they helped foster his short-lived interest in a law degree.

“Forget the FBI, forget the law school and forget all the money I would have made,” García says in hindsight. “I’m the happiest person in the world, teaching. Being able to be a part of education in Spanish culture and language ended up being exactly what I wanted to do.”

Pursuing a future as a professor of Spanish literature, García obtained a Bachelor of Arts from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, and a Master of Arts from the University of North Texas. His Ph.D. is from Tulane University in New Orleans.

García married his longtime sweetheart, Amalia, on Sept. 7, 1957, at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Brownsville. They have been married for 61 years and have raised a daughter and a son together. They also enjoy spending quality time with their four granddaughters and a grandson.

These days, he frequently posts family photos to his Facebook account, usually accompanied by his now familiar comment, “Pura vida.”

Changing Perspectives

As social and political environments change, García said, it’s best to adjust your perspectives on life, as need be.

Cultural diversity was not as prevalent and accepted as it is now, he said, especially considering most of the staff at Pan American College grew up in the early 1900s.

“The faculty did not reflect the student body,” he said. “If we were going to inspire students to move up and change things, it had to happen right where things were really happening – within the faculty.”

So he tried to help build bridges of communication between the student body, faculty and staff, and tapped into connections he made while lecturing in Spain and Monterrey to facilitate relationships with Valley professors.

In 1970, for his efforts to increase student and faculty inclusion, García was named Associate Dean of Men. By 1972, he had helped establish the High School Equivalency (HEP) program at the university. He also was part of the push to revoke the “C or Better” rule, which prevented many students from having access to financial aid.

“I’m very proud of my efforts in that, because the university saw a rise in student enrollment once it was eliminated,” García said.

Other programs García helped implement are Proyecto Esperanza, which helps students obtain counseling and tutoring, and Upward Bound, which helps motivate prospective students to enroll in UTRGV.

FROM UTPA TO UTRGV

From day one, García was on board for the transition of legacy institution UT Pan American into UTRGV.

He embraced the Vaquero, the new school mascot, saying vaqueros are a strong part of the Valley’s culture and heritage.

“Nothing defines us more than the vaquero culture,” García said. “It fits the new culture of the university. After all, you can’t mix the old with the new and expect it to remain the same. A lot of people felt that we should have kept the old mascot. But with a new university, everything needs to change.”

Throughout his time as a professor, García helped change the lives of countless students. He always had an open door policy, and if there was any way he could make the lives of his students a little easier, he said, he had to try.

Lesly McDonald, a former student of García’s in 1987, said he was “an incredible mentor,” and that his passion for culture and literature was apparent in all his classes.

“It was always so nice to see how happy he was when he was teaching,” McDonald said. “He was always so respectful toward his students. And if we needed anything, he was more than willing to help.”

McDonald recounted a memory of García from when she was pursuing her master’s degree in Spanish.

“I was pregnant at the time, and he’d joke that my daughter would know perfect Spanish by the time she was born,” she said. “Sure enough, she was the first of my children to learn Spanish and she became the most fluent in it. He was thrilled when I mentioned that to him years later.”

Moving Forward

During García’s university tenure, he has published multiple scholarly papers and books on various topics surrounding early Hispanic culture. Most recently, he has been working on books of poetry, and continues to collaborate with students and colleagues.

As far as the growth of the university, García envisions wonderful things to come.

“I think that we’re beginning to realize that, as more national companies come here to address the needs of the growing population, the population will demand more professional schools with more doctoral programs,” he said. “Now, we are even creating doctors with our School of Medicine.”

With the increase in new programs, buildings and departments being established at UTRGV across its distributed campuses, García sees a positive, exciting future for Vaqueros and their families throughout South Texas.

“It makes me wish I was young again so I can continue to be a part of the whole thing,” he said. “The people here deserve it and have worked hard for it. We’re no longer the forgotten segment of the state.”

About UTRGV

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.

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Amanda A. Taylor contributed to this article. For more information on the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://edinburgedc.com.

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