Featured: Omar Ochoa, Edinburg City Attorney.
Photograph Courtesy CITY OF EDINBURG
Edinburg City Attorney Omar Ochoa featured in Alumni Spotlight publication of McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin
Edinburg City Attorney Omar Ochoa, who has used his extensive legal expertise to provide ongoing reports to the public about state laws and policies that protect the people’s right-to-know about the activities of governments and its elected and appointed leaders in Texas, was recently featured in the Alumni Spotlight publication of McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.
The McCombs School of Business also referred to as the McCombs School or simply McCombs is the business school at The University of Texas at Austin. In addition to the main campus in downtown Austin, McCombs offers classes outside Central Texas in Dallas, Houston, and internationally in Mexico City.
Ochoa graduated from UT Austin in 2007 with a Canfield Business Honors undergraduate degree and a Master’s in Professional Accounting (MPA). He later earned his JD from the UT School of Law, where he became the first Latino to serve as Editor-in-Chief of Texas Law Review, according to the announcement made on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
Also according to the McCombs School website:
A community of leaders and scholars, the Canfield Business Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business exposes the brightest young talent to one of the most singular educational experiences in the country.
The Canfield Business Honors Program (Canfield BHP) offers a curriculum modeled after case-based MBA programs. It challenges students to think outside of the box. Canfield BHP is more than just a top-rate education, it’s a community. Special programming coordinated by Canfield BHP and the Honors Business Association (HBA) provides opportunities for students from all graduating classes to form strong, lasting relationships with one another.
The McCombs School of Business is ranked:
• 1st in Accounting: Undergraduate, Graduate, & Doctoral by U.S. News & World Report; Public Accounting Report;
• 3rd in Marketing: Best Graduate by College Choice;
• 4th in Business Analytics: Best Graduate Program by QS World University; and
• 5th: Best Undergraduate Program by U.S. News & World Report.
The article, titled “Spotlight: Omar Ochoa, Former UT Student Body President & Canfield BHP Alum”, follows:
After coming to UT as a Canfield Business Honors student and becoming the first Mexican-American student to serve as student body president, Omar Ochoa continues to make waves as an alumnus by running his own law firm in his hometown of Edinburg, Texas.
Ochoa graduated from UT Austin in 2007 with a Canfield Business Honors undergraduate degree and a Master’s in Professional Accounting (MPA). He later earned his JD from the UT School of Law, where he became the first Latino to serve as Editor-in-Chief of Texas Law Review. –https://texaslawreview.org/about/ )
(The Texas Law Review is a national and international leader in legal scholarship. Texas Law Review is an independent journal, edited and published entirely by students at the University of Texas School of Law. Our seven issues per year contain articles by professors, judges, and practitioners; reviews of important recent books from recognized experts, essays, commentaries; and student-written notes. Texas Law Review is currently the ninth most cited legal periodical in federal and state cases in the United States and the thirteenth most cited by legal journals. – https://texaslawreview.org/about/ )
Looking back on his experiences at UT, Ochoa considers his time priceless.
“I always say that some of my fondest memories are from UT,” he said. “The campus life is second to none, the city of Austin is such a great place to be, and the university an enclave within Austin that’s very culturally diverse. Having such a big research university with a great athletic program, great student involvement, and lots of organizations to be a part of is just a very dynamic place where you can really learn who you are and find yourself.”
While serving as the UT student body president in 2005 and 2006, Ochoa spearheaded a campaign to add another space on campus for students to convene.
“At the time the student union was the only student space on campus and there really wasn’t a whole lot of spaces for students to build community,” he said, “So we organized a campaign to convince students that (adding a student space) was something that needed to be done and, luckily, they voted for it. Then came the student activity center.”
After earning his undergraduate degree, Ochoa went on to work for General Motors. He knew, however, that he wanted to be a lawyer, and came back to the forty acres a year later to earn his JD.
“I had an internship with the general motors in Detroit, Michigan, and it was one of those internships ships that I took on not necessarily because I was looking for a longterm career with General Motors, but it was a great option that came up and I decided to try it out,” he said. “In the process of doing that job I got to know a lot of people there at GM and they offered me a full-time job upon graduation. So, I deferred my admission to UT Law for a year so that I could go work for General Motors. I did that with the idea that maybe I’d forego a legal career in favor of an accounting career and it was a really great job, but I knew I wasn’t going to get rid of the law school bug and that I would regret it if I didn’t go back, so I did and I loved UT Law.”
Ochoa said his business background from Canfield Business Honors helped him greatly when it came to law school and while practicing.
“Every time I take on a new corporate client or every time I start a lawsuit where we’re suing a corporate entity, I have to learn all about that business, backward and forwards, financial statements, operations, you name it,” he said. “Being able to have a deep level of business understanding helps me to develop a good strategy for what I’m doing and ultimately serve my client. If I didn’t have that very solid business background from (Canfield) BHP I would not be as good of a lawyer as I am today.”
After law school, Ochoa went on to work for federal judges and at law firms in various cities, including Kentucky, Dallas, and Houston. Eventually, he found his way back home to the Rio Grande Valley, where he now runs his own practice with offices in Edinburg and McAllen.
“I have a very special connection to the Rio Grande Valley. I was born and raised here, public school, right. All along the way. My family was very civically involved (growing up) and (they) are still down here,” he said.” I love the Valley and it is a very kind of deep part of my personality and it always has been. So I knew I would make it back here at some point in my career. I just didn’t know when or how.”
Ochoa’s commitment to government transparency in Texas
In addition to the Alumni Spotlight feature story about Ochoa, the area attorney has become a promoter and defender of government transparency, publishing on a regular basis, news stories, sent free-of-charge to area mainstream and social media sites, along with more than 1,000 South Texas leaders, since March 2019.
Those articles, by headline, are:
• Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas finds journalists putting new Texas public records law to the test;
• Even during COVID-19 emergency, Edinburg protects the public’s right to comment during city council sessions;
• Senate Bill 494, supported by Valley legislative delegation, designed to strike balance between open government laws and abilities of elected leaders in Texas to save lives;
• “Fake News” isn’t easy to spot on Facebook, according to a new study;
• First National Drone Safety Awareness Week highlighted by FAA as a federal lawsuit in Austin targets Texas law for allegedly discriminating against “image journalists”;
• City of Edinburg, as part of its dedication to open government, also posts advance notices for certain informal events which feature it’s elected and appointed leadership;
• Sens. Hinojosa/Zaffirini, Reps. Canales/Guerra take leadership roles on SB 1640, which benefits the Texas Open Meetings Act;
• Sen. Hinojosa, Rep. Canales played key roles in new Texas law that increases the public’s right to know how taxes are spent;
• “Transparency in government should be a hallmark of the City of Edinburg” with new public information software; and
• Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas Legislature taking actions involving transparency in governments throughout the state;
On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, the Edinburg Mayor and City Council unanimously appointed Ochoa as Interim City Attorney, and on Wednesday, January 23, 2019, removed the Interim label and voted to make Ochoa Edinburg’s permanent City Attorney.
For decades, Edinburg’s city leadership, just like the constituents they serve, have been strong supporters of the people’s right to know what their local city government is doing, said Ochoa.
“From publicizing in advance, then recording, broadcasting, and saving the videos of the public meetings of the Edinburg City Council and its jobs-creation arm, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, to making easily available the full agenda packets of those public sessions, anyone can know what their city government is planning to do, and has done, in the name of its citizens,” he emphasized.
Those government transparency actions were taken without being required to do so by any state law, the City of Edinburg, through its website, https://cityofedinburg.com, features the full agenda packets of the Edinburg City Council. The full agenda packets of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation are available at https://edinburgedc.com/agendas/.
“Often, the city’s agenda meeting packets are hundreds of pages in length, but any person can see all of the information and materials that are being reviewed, discussed, and proposed to be acted upon by the mayor and city councilmembers,” Ochoa noted. “Just as important, through the Internet, there is no charge to anyone to access this public information.”
As Edinburg City Attorney, Ochoa, an Edinburg native, serves as chief legal advisor to the Edinburg City Council – which includes the mayor –and other city officials, advisory boards, commissions and staff to protect the interests of the city and taxpayers.
Edinburg has an estimated population of 100,000 residents.
As part of his responsibilities, Ochoa prepares and reviews ordinances, resolutions, and contracts, as well as advise in and review employment matters and other legal issues.
His legal and business expertise also are utilized on behalf of the city government’s 20 departments, which total more than 1,000 employees.
Ochoa also represents the city in civil litigation and is responsible for the criminal prosecution of all misdemeanor and infraction offenses occurring with the jurisdiction of the city’s Municipal Court.
Ochoa inspired by his father, former mayor Joe Ochoa, and his mother, CPA Lydia Ochoa
Although he has traveled and lived far away from Edinburg, Ochoa has always maintained his deep roots in the city.
His father, Joe Ochoa, the Mayor of Edinburg from 1993 to 2003 and 2006 to 2009, and his mother, Lydia Ochoa, a certified public accountant (CPA), grew up as migrant laborers and went on to receive professional degrees from prestigious universities.
Like many parents in the Rio Grande Valley, they raised their children to value education and hard work.
All of his life, Ochoa took these lessons to heart and excelled in his pursuits in hopes of making his family and community proud.
Graduating from Edinburg North High School after passing 12 Advanced Placement tests, Ochoa attended the University of Texas at Austin on a full scholarship and earned degrees in Business Administration, Accounting and Economics, and graduated from the prestigious Business Honors Program.
While at UT, Ochoa was elected in Spring 2005 as Student Body President, the first Mexican American to serve in the position, and represented more than 50,000 students to the University administration, faculty and staff and to the Texas Legislature.
In addition to that achievement as a UT undergraduate, in that role successfully championed the placement of a student member on the Boards of Regents of Texas’ public colleges and universities. A student regent joined UT System Board of Regents in February 2006. He also travels across the Rio Grande Valley, talking about the college experience and encouraging students to apply.
While at UT, he made history again by becoming the first Latino to serve as the first Mexican American to serve as Editor-in-Chief of the prestigious Texas Law Review, which is run entirely by students and publishes legal scholarship produced by professors, judges, and practitioners, according to a UT Austin news release published on May 16, 2011.
“Ochoa combined his passion for the law and service for others. During law school, he won a writing competition, worked as a research assistant, interned at the Texas Supreme Court and was published in two law journals,” reported Laura Castro, with the UT School of Law. “But he also was the education chair for the Chicano/Hispanic Law Students Association, a teaching assistant for a legal writing class and a mentor in the university’s Intellectual Entrepreneurship program. This spring, he was the abbot (president) of the university’s Friar Society, the oldest and most prestigious honor society on campus.”
Also while in law school, Ochoa was part of a three-member team representing the UT School of Law that won the national championship in the 2011 Uvaldo Herrera National Moot Court Competition. Team members Anthony Arguijo, ’11; Sergio Davila, ’11; and Omar Ochoa, ’11, beat Arizona State University in the final round of the competition to win the championship.
The team also won the award for the best respondent’s brief. Ochoa and Arguijo are (were) also editor-in-chief and managing editor, respectively, of the Texas Law Review
Like many municipalities in Texas and across the country, the City Attorney for Edinburg is a contracted position. As a result, Ochoa will continue private practice as managing attorney of the Omar Ochoa Law Firm while also serving as Edinburg City Attorney.
RIO GRANDE VALLEY READY TO RETURN TO LIVE SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT AS GOV. ABBOTT INCREASES CAPACITIES FOR OUTDOOR VENUES
Golden Grape Entertainment announced on Friday, June 5, 2020, that both H-E-B Park, home of the USL Championship’s Rio Grande Valley FC, and Bert Ogden Arena, home of the NBA G League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers, have reopened for live events.
The organization announced the reopenings following the announcement by Gov. Greg Abbot that allows sporting venues to expand their capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening.
Abbott on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, announced the third phase of the State of Texas’ plan to safely open the economy while containing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase III, effective immediately, all businesses in Texas will be able to operate at up to 50 percent capacity, with very limited exceptions.
A business that previously have been able to operate at 100 percent capacity may continue to do so, and most outdoor areas are not subject to capacity limits. All businesses and customers should continue to follow minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
As with previous phases, the Phase III plan is based on the advice and support of the four doctors on the Strike Force to Open Texas medical team. Via Executive Order, Phase III begins immediately. A breakdown of Phase III can be found below.
“The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe,” said Abbott. “As anticipated, the new positive cases that we are seeing are largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meatpacking plants. Thanks to the effectiveness of our Surge Response Teams, we have the ability to contain those hot spots while opening up Texas for business. As we begin Phase III, I ask all Texans and Texas businesses to continue following the standard health protocols and to heed the guidance of our state and federal officials who continue to closely monitor COVID-19. If we remain vigilant, we will continue to mitigate the spread of this virus, protect public health, and get more Texans back to work and their daily activities.”
Between Tuesday, May 26, 2020, and Tuesday, June 2, 2020, more than 45 percent of new cases came from jails or prisons, meatpacking plants and nursing homes. At that time, there were 1,487 Texans hospitalized due to COVID-19. As of June 2, 2020, there were 20,679 active cases in the state and 45,858 Texans were estimated to have recovered.
A recent survey conducted by Golden Grape Entertainment found that 62 percent of respondents said they were ready to attend events within the first 30 days of Bert Ogden Arena and H-E-B Park reopening.
That number increases to 72 percent within the first 60 days. The study saw a ratio of 47 percent females and 52 percent males polled, with the largest percentage of respondents (44 percent) between the ages of 31 and 45 years of age.
“This is excellent news, as both of our facilities are hosting events this weekend,” says Ron Patel, President of Golden Grape Entertainment. “Bert Ogden Arena hosted today the first public blood drive since the pandemic hit, and H-E-B Park welcomed high school graduates and their families for graduation ceremonies. The United Soccer League also just announced that the Valley’s soccer team, the RGV FC Toros, can resume gameplay at the H-E-B Park starting Saturday, July 11, 2020, so we are excited to welcome everyone back through our doors.”
In preparation for the return of live events, Golden Grape Entertainment surveyed its fans to determine which preventative measures are most important for them to feel safe upon their return. Of almost 700 respondents, 79 percent said seeing several hand sanitizer stations throughout the venue, 65 percent said they would like to see employees use face masks and/or shields, and 62 percent said it is important to them that employees undergo wellness checks before the start of their shift.
All of these measures, and more, are already being implemented across all of Golden Grape’s facilities and at all events to ensure the safety and peace of mind of both patrons and employees.
“When the Toros resume their season in July, we want everyone to be confident in the knowledge that we have taken every safety precaution for our staff, patrons, and players,” says Patel. “We have taken this time off to perfect our practices for the ‘new normal’, and we will be bigger and better than ever.”
The Toros are currently offering a Ticket Bank Plan with three seating options available starting at $75, which includes 10 tickets to any home games for the remainder of the season, and two free Raising Cane’s box combos as a gift with purchase. This offer will be available for a limited time, prior to the announcement of the USL Championship’s schedule for the remainder of the 2020 season.
For information to purchase, please click here: https://bit.ly/2Y8sv2H
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY BASKETBALL TEAMS TO PLAY SELECT GAMES AT BERT OGDEN ARENA
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Department of Intercollegiate Athletics on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, that the men’s and women’s basketball teams will play at least three games at Bert Ogden Arena, including a doubleheader against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday, December 2, 2020, and a men’s game against three-time defending Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Champion New Mexico State on Thursday, February 18, 2021.
The women’s game of the Wednesday, December 2, 2020 doubleheader, which is part of the South Texas Showdown, presented by Navy Army Community Credit Union is currently scheduled to start at 5 p.m. with the men’s game to follow at approximately 7 p.m. The Thursday, February 18, 2021 game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
As the 2020-21 schedule shapes up, other opportunities may arise.
UTRGV basketball season ticket holders will receive tickets to all games played at Bert Ogden Arena included in their packages. Season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by contacting the UTRGV Athletics Ticket Office team of Carlos Muñoz (956-665-3747) and Tiffany Ochoa (956-665-3415) over the phone or through email at [email protected].
“We are excited to be able to bring UTRGV basketball back to Bert Ogden Arena and plan for this to be the start of a bigger long-term partnership,” UTRGV Vice President and Director of Athletics Chasse Conque said. “As we work to enhance the fan and student-athlete experience, playing in the Valley’s premier venue is key to our mission to #RallyTheValley behind UTRGV Athletics.”
UTRGV men’s basketball previously played at Bert Ogden Arena on Friday, November 9, 2018, welcoming 5,071 fans for a game against Oklahoma.
UTRGV hosted multiple commencement ceremonies at Bert Ogden Arena in December 2019.
“Golden Grape Entertainment is proud to partner with UTRGV and the athletic department for these games,” Golden Grape Entertainment President Ron Patel said. “We love bringing together the Valley in unique and memorable ways and can’t wait to see NCAA Division I Basketball at the Bert Ogden Arena!”
With a capacity of nearly 7,700 for basketball that is expandable to 9,324 for concerts on three levels of seating, Bert Ogden Arena is the largest indoor arena in South Texas. The arena includes 15 luxury suites, two members suites, four bunker suites, and 10 loge boxes.
All seats are comfortably designed, measuring 48 inches from front to back of each seat to offer ample legroom.
Guests enjoy high-end restaurant quality concessions from partners such as Taco Palenque, Il Forno, Kumori, Fuddruckers, and Luby’s to create a unique dining experience.
To enhance the ultimate fan experience, Bert Ogden Arena offers advanced systems including a 44×19’ LED video board, wrap-around LED ribbon board, and concourse TVs.
Michael Martínez and Cary Zayas contributed to this report. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).