FEATURED FROM LEFT: Mario Lizcano, Administrator of Corporate Affairs, DHR Health; District 1 McAllen City Commissioner Tony Aguirre; and McAllen Police Chief Víctor Rodríguez. In this image, taken on Monday, December 13, 2021, the police chief and city commissioner were honoring DHR Health for being a founding and annual sponsor of the Annual Christmas for Kids Toy Giveaway, which began 20 years ago.
Photograph Courtesy CITY OF MCALLEN
Former Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, McAllen Police Chief Víctor Rodríguez, five other experts in education, law enforcement, immigration, and the economy to be featured in Futuro RGV’s Festival of Facts on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 at McAllen Public Library from 6 pm to 8 pm
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Seven area experts on public and higher education, law enforcement, the economy, and immigration will be featured speakers on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, at the McAllen Public Library, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., during Futuro RGV’s Festival of Facts, an event which is free and open to the public.
The McAllen Public Library is located at 4001 North 23rd Street.
Futuro RGV, formerly known as Futuro McAllen, began as an advocacy citizen group in 1999 for quality-of-life issues that were in danger of being side-tracked due to the tremendous growth taking place in McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley, according to its website.
Futuro is a Spanish word for future.
Festival of Facts will be delivered in the following way:
• Each speaker will have about 10 minutes to present their facts on the issue; and
• Any speaker’s PowerPoint presentation will be emailed to any attendee who provides a legible email on the registration sheet or a business card.
However, the speakers will not take questions or comments from the audience during the two-hour session in order to provide the time for their respective introductions and setting up of PowerPoint presentations.
A PowerPoint is a presentation created on software from Microsoft that allows users to add audio, visual and audio/visual features to a presentation. It is considered to be a multimedia technology and also acts as a tool for collaboration and content sharing.
The Tuesday, July 12, 2022 forum and a second event, scheduled for Tuesday, July 19, 2022 – also at the McAllen Public Library from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. – are part of Futuro RGV’s commitment to increasing an educated citizenry.
“The two forums will inform the public and candidates prior to the Fall 2022 elections about relevant data points on 16 important issues that affect us in the RGV,” explained Futuro RGV President Nedra Kinerk. “Speakers will present information on an issue on which they have research data – versus opinions or rumors that may be circulating.”
Prior to the beginning of the presentations, interested individuals – including mainstream and social media journalists – will have the opportunity to meet with the speakers during a pre-event mixer from 5:19 pm to 5:50 pm.
“The mixer is to set the tone for the forum and to ensure attendees are in their seats and ready to start promptly at 6 pm,” said Kinerk. “The mixer also gives the audience the opportunity to know the speakers and better appreciate their information.”
Individuals interested in the upcoming Festival of Facts forums may contact Kinerk at [email protected] or Rhonda Salinas at [email protected]
Scheduled to participate and deliver their respective insights and their latest information will be (this list is in alphabetical order, not by order of appearance):
- Jessica Bolter
- Associate Policy Analyst
- Migration Policy Institute
Topics: Migrant Flows, Patterns and Trends
Jessica Bolter is an Associate Policy Analyst with the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at MPI. Her research focuses on migration patterns at the U.S.-Mexico border, extracontinental migration in the Americas, immigration enforcement, and asylum and refugee issues.
She has interned with MPI, the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, the Ohio Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs, and the Center for Democracy in the Americas. Ms. Bolter holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies and Spanish area studies from Kenyon College, where she focused on relations between the United States and Latin America.
Former Rep. Verónica Gonzáles
Senior Vice President
Government and Community Relations
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Topic: Growing and Keeping Talent in the Rio Grande Valley
Verónica Gonzáles is a recognized leader in the public and private sectors, having more than 20 years of experience in negotiating and advocating to obtain results – as an attorney, mediator, legislator, fundraiser and now working in government and community relations for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Also for more than 20 years, Gonzáles practiced law in the Rio Grande Valley. During those years, she was recognized as a Super Lawyer four times by the Texas Super Lawyers and was named one of “30 Extraordinary Women in Law” by the Texas Lawyer. In 2004, Gonzáles was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, where she served four terms, two of which, she was the Chairwoman of the Border and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.
Dr. Daniel King
Region One Education Service Center
Topics: Public, Charter & Private School Enrollment; and
High School Graduation Rates and Students’ Next Steps
The Region One ESC Board of Directors voted unanimously to select Dr. Daniel P. King as the new Executive Director of the Region One Education Service Center in a regular called board meeting in late April; his first day was May 2, 2022.
He has served 42 years in public education with experience at all levels, including 20 years as a superintendent in both small and large Region One area school districts, retiring in 2019 from PSJA ISD.
Most recently, King has been involved in transforming leadership teams in areas of organizational performance, leadership development, and executive coaching. His selection as the regional service center’s educational leader was approved by Mike Morath, Texas Commissioner of Education, who commended King’s leadership and experience: “Dr. Danny King is a proven educational leader. I am both encouraged and excited by the ESC 1 Board of Director’s decision to appoint him as the region’s next Executive Director.”
Paul R. Rodríguez
Board of Trustees
South Texas College
Topics: Dual Enrollment/Early College High School Trends
Since 2000, the Dual Credit Programs at South Texas College has served 118,000 high school students at 70 high school partners, saving families more than $280 million in tuition.
Paul R. Rodríguez is President and CEO of Valley Land Title Company, which provides title insurance products and services to facilitate real estate transactions. With offices in McAllen, Mission, Edinburg and Weslaco, the company has a staff with more than 250 years of combined experience in all aspects of the title industry, including abstractors, title examiners, tax personnel, escrow officers, real estate attorneys and support staff.
As the STC District 3 board trustee, he represents South McAllen, Southwest Pharr, Hidalgo, Sharyland, Southeast Mission, and Granjeño. He was appointed in August 2021, and has gone on to win reelection, including in May 2022, where he was reelected to another six-year term.
Rodríguez formerly served as Chair and Secretary of the seven-member STC Board of Trustees.
He currently serves as a member of STC’s Education and Workforce Development Committee as a member of the Finance, Audit, and Human Resources Committee.
Chief of Police
City of McAllen
Topic: Crime Statistics and Trends
Now in his 22nd year as Chief, Víctor Rodríguez previously worked in Brownsville for 16 years as Chief, then worked for Governor George W. Bush in Austin before taking the position in McAllen.
He also takes an active role with the local Crime Stoppers, which has become a strong advocate for the department.
Rodríguez is a member of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council Criminal Justice Advisory Committee and McAllen Crime Stoppers, past director of the South Texas Inter-Governmental Drug Task Force. He is also a past member of the Cameron County Drug Enforcement Task Force Board of Governors, Texas Interstate Compact Committee, Brownsville Crime Stoppers and Association of Paroling Authorities International.
Rodríguez is past chairman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Texas Automobile Theft Prevention Authority. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas Pan American and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program.
Dr. Ricardo Solis
South Texas College
Topic: Higher Education Statistics
Ricardo Solis, Ph.D., is President of South Texas College and previously served as President of Laredo College, Laredo, Texas; Executive Dean for Academic, Professional, and Technical Education at Gateway Community College; and Maricopa Community Colleges, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Solis earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration – Community College Leadership from The University of Texas at Austin; a Master of Business Administration in International Management from Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California; and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Economics from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.
Founded in 1993, South Texas College offers more than 127 degree and certificate options, including associate degrees in a variety of liberal art, social science, business, math, science, technology, advanced manufacturing, and allied health fields of study.
Additionally, South Texas College is the only community college in the State of Texas to offer five baccalaureate degrees. South Texas College has a faculty and staff of more than 2,200 to serve the college’s five campuses, two higher education centers, and one virtual campus.
Senior Vice President
Topic: Sales Tax Receipts
In his role with COSTEP – the Council for Economic Progress – Ruszczak helps market the vibrantbinational Rio South Texas Region to Mobility Industry investors from around the world.
COSTEP, the Council for Economic Progress, forges new pathways for regional prosperity through a variety of economic development initiatives. These initiatives work in concert with COSTEP’s historic educational mission, helping families flourish through efforts that include helping fund millions of dollars in scholarships and providing free financial literacy education programs. Throughout the organization’s 49-year history, COSTEP’s one goal has been to help local residents provide a better life for themselves and their families.
His previous professional successes include serving as Executive Director, Rio South Texas Economic Council, where he supported economic development efforts across deep South Texas as well as promoting the Rio South Texas regional on an international scale.
Before that, Ruszczak was Chapter Relations & Development Manager for the Texas Restaurant Association, who helped strengthen 23 TRA chapters throughout the state and building value for the more than 14,000 members of that Austin-based organization.
Futuro RGV events are usually free and open to the public, thanks in large part to financial support provided by key sponsors to cover the costs of the public affairs gatherings organized by the group.
“Our sponsors have been very important in helping Futuro RGV provide these services,” Kinerk gratefully emphasized.
The 2022 Sponsors for Futuro RGV are, in alphabetical order:
- Clark Chevrolet
- Copy Zone
- DHR Health
- Ernie Williams
- Frost Banking Investments Insurance
- IBC Bank
- L&F Distributors
- Rhodes Enterprises, Inc.
- Rio Bank
- Sam Garcia Architect
- UVMS – Upper Valley Mail Service, LLC
- Valley Land Title Co.
All of the leaders and members of Futuro RGV are volunteers, and they each pay annual dues of $20 to help support the group’s mission and vision.
“Member dues to support this work is also very important. Member dues have remained $20 per year since its founding in 1999,” she said. “We welcome $20 dues from all who support our informational programs – check, cash, or credit card.”
Futuro RGV plans to record the two Festival of Facts presentations to be later broadcast on the Futuro RGV Facebook page, website, and social media.
These presentations will be the basis for questions at the Futuro Rio Grande Valley Candidate Forums in September 2022 for the General Elections in November 2022.
UT/Texas Politics Project Poll: Majority of Texans oppose banning abortion; Texans saying state is on the wrong track reaches historic high
In new polling conducted primarily during the week prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, a University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll finds only 15 percent of Texans support a complete ban on abortion access.
Those findings were released by the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday, July 6, 2022.
Although 37 percent of Texas voters support the state’s trigger law that would ban abortion in most cases in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, no more than 36 percent would foreclose all access to legal abortion across various circumstances.
The poll surveyed 1,200 registered voters in Texas representative of the demographic characteristics of the state’s population from June 16 to June 24.
“This is only the latest in a long series of poll results illustrating that most Texans oppose making abortion legally unavailable,” said James Henson, Director, Texas Politics Project at UT Austin and a co-founder of the polling project. “Efforts by the U.S. Supreme Court and Texas’ political leadership to end access to abortion, especially in cases of rape and incest, go far beyond what a majority of Texas voters support.”
The poll also found a majority of Texans’ attitudes toward gun control measures remained unchanged and expressed support for gun control measures in similar magnitudes to polling conducted prior to the school shooting in Uvalde.
Seventy-eight percent supported expanded background checks on all gun purchases in the United States, including at gun shows and during private sales, while 16 percent opposed such changes.
When asked about allowing courts “to require a person determined to be a risk to themselves or others to temporarily surrender guns in their possession,” commonly called a “red flag law,” 66 percent expressed support while 24 percent were opposed.
Texans’ opinions about the causes of mass shootings illustrate the continued divide in attitudes, especially across partisan lines.
Half of Democrats polled said that current gun laws are the factor most to blame for mass shootings in the U.S., while the factors most frequently cited by Texas Republicans include the “failure of the mental health system to identify dangerous individuals” (25 percent) and “unstable family situations” (21 percent).
By contrast, only six percent of Republicans cite current gun laws as the most important factor in incidents of mass shootings.
“It’s no surprise to find Democratic voters in favor of stricter gun laws,” said Joshua Blank, Research Director,Texas Politics Project. “And while it may seem paradoxical, most Texas Republicans support gun ownership and blame mass shootings on factors other than current gun laws – yet large shares also support many of the most prominent gun safety proposals, like universal background checks and red flag laws.”
In regard to the economy and the direction of the state and country, many Texans hold negative views, including the largest shares of negative responses in the poll’s history – 59 percent said the state was on the wrong track, as opposed to 31 percent who said the state was headed in the right direction.
Economic conditions play an outsized role in Texans’ broadly negative mood: 53 percent said their personal economic situation is worse than it was a year ago; 58 percent said the Texas economy is worse than it was a year ago; and 73 percent said the national economy is worse than it was a year ago.
All three of these are the worst ratings in the history of the UT polling project. Republican candidates continued to lead in Texas’ high-profile 2022 election contests.
Incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott held a 6-point lead over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke among registered voters, 45 percent to 39 percent, with three percent choosing third-party candidates and 13 percent either someone else or remaining undecided.
In the rematch of the 2018 race for lieutenant governor, incumbent Republican Dan Patrick leads Democratic challenger Mike Collier 38 percent to 26 percent, with 11 percent preferring Libertarian Shanna Steele, and 31 percent either “someone else” or remaining undecided.
Incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxon leads Democratic challenger Rochelle Garza 37 percent to 29 percent.
“Texas voters have yet to focus in on these races, but there is nothing in the current data to suggest the Democrats are poised for an upset,” said Daron Shaw, a professor of government and a co-founder of the polling project. “GOP candidates lead by anywhere from 6 to 12 points, which is in line with what we would expect of partisan vote choice in Texas. The big question for the Democrats is how to convince voters that Texas elections aren’t a referendum on the president and his party.”
Lauren Macknight contributed to this article. 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).