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Judges Daniel G. Ríos, Jesse Contreras gearing up financially for top local race in Hidalgo County

Hidalgo County 449th District Court Judge Daniel G. Ríos of Edinburg, featured left in this file photo from last fall, has raised more than $67,000 in political contributions during the first six months of 2008, according to his campaign finance report filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. Ríos, former Edinburg city attorney, was appointed last November by Gov. Rick Perry to the local district court, which has jurisdiction over juvenile matters.  He joined his family to receive a House Concurrent Resolution, authored by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, which honored the memory of Dr. Luis M. Ríos, Sr., a renowned plastic surgeon and the patriarch of their family, for his many contributions to the region. Featured during this presentation were, from left: Dan Ríos; mother Mary Ann Ríos; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who sponsored the legislation; and Dr. Luis Ríos, Jr.  See lead story on Ríos/Contreras campaign finance report later in this posting.

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Jesús “Jesse” Contreras, featured left during a recent grand opening of his law office in Edinburg, is gearing up once again for a countywide campaign, this time against Republican Judge Daniel G. Ríos in the November 4 election. Contreras, a longtime Mercedes Municipal Court judge, defeated fellow Democrat Judge Maxine Longoria-Nash in the March 4 party party primary to face Ríos, who was appointed to the bench last fall by Gov. Rick Perry.  Contreras is featured here with law partner Sergio Muñoz at their local office. The 449th District Court focuses on legal cases involving juveniles. See lead story on  Ríos/Contreras campaign finance report later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Early Risers Lions Club has awarded Dr. Gary L. Ahlman, featured center, an Edinburg optometrist,  a certificate of appreciation for his many years of providing disadvantaged children with free eye exams and glasses. Ahlman has worked with Lions Clubs in Edinburg and the Hidalgo County Indigent Program to provide free eye exams and eyeglasses to children of families who are economically disadvantaged. Ahlman estimates he has helped provide free eyeglasses for over 5,000 Edinburg-area children. Featured with Ahlman are, to his left, Raúl M. Leal, secretary/treasurer for the Lions Club, and Joe Longoria, president for the Edinburg Early Risers Lions Club. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Leadership Edinburg Class is currently accepting applications for Class XX.  Leadership Edinburg is a growing organization that strives to encourage a better Edinburg through strong leadership skills focusing on politics, education, and quality of life.  There are more than 400 graduates who have taken the challenge and completed each program of work with pride and great accomplishment. Graduates of Leadership Edinburg typically continue to apply what they learned and demonstrate it by showing interest in community involvement including serving on committees and at times politics. Tuition is only $400 to participate and is due by August 29.  Applicants should make arrangements to sign up as soon as possible; as there are limited spaces are available.  The retreat will take place at South Padre Island, on September 12th & 13th at La Quinta.  For more information on Leadership Edinburg or to register please call Letty González at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956-383-4974. Featured from left are the 08-09 Leadership Edinburg Steering Committee: Cynthia Bocanegra, Pilar Corpus, Abel Leal, Naomi Peralez, Steve Crossland, Destiny Campos, Edna Peña, Jay Flores, Jerry Salazar, and  Pamela Dougherty.

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Technically preferred alignment approved for Hidalgo County Loop; public hearings set to begin in mid-July for input on selected route

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, one of the premier hospital systems in South Texas, on Thursday, July 10, hosted a delegation of eight state representatives from Houston as part of the hospital leadership’s strategies to build legislative alliances statewide that can benefit Edinburg and the Valley. The delegation of Democrats, which included Rep. Senfronia Thompson, the Dean of the Texas House of Representatives and a candidate for Texas Speaker of the House, reviewed upcoming major legislative issues that will impact the delivery of medical care in Texas.  Prior to a tour of the local hospital system in Edinburg, the delegation also met with Alonso Cantú, a member of the DHR Board of Directors, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen.  Featured in this portrait, taken at the Women’s Hospital at Renaissance, front row, from left: Sue Bajus, Director of Women’s Services at DHR; Rep.-elect Armando Walle; Rep.-elect Carol Alvarado; Thompson; Rep. Ellen Coen; Rep. Dora Olivo; Rep. Alma Allen, Ph.D.; Rep. Hubert Vo; and Rep. Ana Hernández. Back row, from left, are: Dr. Carlos Cárdenas, a gastroenterologist and chairman of the DHR Board of Directors; Patricia Burch, R.N., Director for Neonatology; and Dr. Carlos Mohamed, a gynecologist and oncologist.

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Award-winning reporter/blogger/columnist Ramiro Burr has left the San Antonio Express-News to launch his own company, Ramiro Burr Communications. Burr’s move is the latest in a professional trajectory that includes stints as an entertainment writer, newspaper reporter, freelance writer, book author, and regionally syndicated columnist. Most recently, the alumni of the University of Texas at Austin was recognized as No. 1 blogger at Mysa.com. Burr says he is ready for the next level. “I will continue to write and blog about music. I think the community, especially the Latino community, is still underserved when it comes to news and information,” he said. “I have always emphasized the need for all media to be well-balanced and fully represent their communities, including the Latino community. By being inclusive, we are all enriched.” Burr,  left, is featured here with Nicolás Kanellos, Ph.D., director of Arte Público Press, at the 2004 Edward James Olmos Latino Book Festival in Houston.  See story later in this posting.

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A recent seminar presented at The University of Texas-Pan American offered Rio Grande Valley disability service professionals as well as individuals with disabilities an opportunity to learn more about benefits and services available locally to enable individuals with disabilities to obtain a higher education. The “Disability Benefits and Return to Work” seminar, co-sponsored by the UTPA Department of Rehabilitation Addiction Studies Project, Workforce Solutions and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), covered Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability benefits and return to work considerations and incentives. It also held a session highlighting individuals with disabilities who had been on SSA disability benefits but have successfully transitioned to higher paying professional jobs by obtaining higher education. Featured participating in the Student Success panel at the seminar are, from left: Ernesto González, Eberto Soto Jr., Jorge Urrutia, Héctor Requenez, Benny Ramírez, Noel Ysasi, and Judith Pérez. See story later in this posting.

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Joshua and Frank Jaramillo of Edinburg show off their movie poster design for an upcoming film, The Álvarez Vietnam Story: Brothers in Arms to Fernando Álvarez, also an Edinburg resident, at South Texas College’s Technology Campus. The Jaramillo brothers, both PSJA High School graduates, are experiencing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood-style movie production first hand. They were chosen to design the movie poster and promotional binder for the film, which tells the true story of three Hispanic brothers, Emeterio III, Gilberto and Fernando Álvarez, originally from San Antonio, who risked their lives serving in Vietnam.  See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, and McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz on Thursday, July 3, joined key International Museum of Art & Science (IMAS) leaders to announce the return of the free general admission program every Sunday for the next 12 months. The free general admission program, which will take place every Sunday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., began on Sunday, July 6. Complimentary general museum admission is available to all visitors, not just residents of McAllen. Gonzáles, along with Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, filed legislation in 2007 that was enacted into law, which allows the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court to appropriate county funding to IMAS. Featured at the press conference at IMAS from left: Serena Rosenkrantz, IMAS executive director; Salinas; Gonzáles; Cortéz; and Dr. John Gerling, president of the IMAS Board of Directors. Gonzáles, whose House 41 legislative district includes southwest Edinburg, is facing a reelection challenge in November from fellow McAllen lawyer Javier Villalobos, a Republican. See story on the Gonzáles/Lucio legislation later in this posting.

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Garza reelected in match with Rodríguez, Espinoza survives challenge by Guerrero; $150 million school construction bond propositions widely approved

The first historical marker on The University of Texas-Pan American grounds was unveiled April 26 honoring Emilia Schunior Ramírez (1902 – 1960) a South Texas educator with deep roots in Edinburg. More than 40 community members, family and friends attended the celebration commemorating her life. The marker site was erected near Emilia Schunior Ramírez hall, located off of Sugar Road in Edinburg, which is named after Ramírez and once served as a women’s dormitory. Pictured at the unveiling of the Hidalgo County historical marker honoring Emilia Schunior Ramírez are her children, along with their families, who came to the event at the UTPA campus. “This is a joyous occasion for the University as we not only celebrate our first historical marker on campus, but also honor the extraordinary life of Emilia Schunior Ramírez, a world-class educator, who made an impact on many lives in South Texas,” UTPA President Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas said. Emilia’s eldest son, Alfonso Ramírez, who was Edinburg’s first Hispanic mayor in the 1950s said his mother was a learner and spent most of her time continuing her education, See story later in this posting.

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McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz, featured left, on April 30 welcomed Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland, at a major fundraiser in Pharr for the Hidalgo County Republican Party. Cortéz, who presented Craddick with a token of appreciation from McAllen for Craddick’s work on behalf of South Texas College, continues to build his relationships with the top legislative leadership in Austin, which will be considering the legislative priorities from the McAllen City Commission beginning in January 2009. One of those efforts may include a plan to bring a University of Texas-Pan American facility into McAllen. Cortéz hopes that his city, local legislators, and the UT System can work out a deal with the Texas Legislature to build a state-of-the-art planetarium, known as a digital dome theatre, in the City of Palms. The idea has been in the development stage for about a year, said Cortéz, who wants the UTPA high-technology component to be one of the focal points of an even more ambitious goal – the creation of a high-end retail, entertainment, and housing district – known as “Central Park” – to be built near La Plaza Mall. The value of such a facility would extend beyond tourism dollars, Cortéz contends – it would inspire thousands of Valley students to seek education and careers in science, engineering, and technology. See related story.

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President George W. Bush signs H.R. 5715 into law on Wednesday, May 7, 2008, during a ceremony in the Oval Office. The bill, “Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008,” is designed to provide continued availability of access to the Federal student loan program for students and families. Looking on are, from left: Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Congressman George Miller, D-San Francisco; Congressman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, California; Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming; Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson; Congressman Ric Keller, R-Orlando, Florida; and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. See story later in this posting.

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In battle over Border Wall, the medium is the message in order to influence national opposition

Key leaders of the Texas Border Coalition, welcomed here by Dr. Glenn A. Martínez, a member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (featured bottom row, second from left), on Tuesday, April 15, in Edinburg spoke against federal government plans to build 2,000-mile border wall designed to stop terrorists from illegally crossing into the United States. Opponents against the wall say border security can be better enhanced with additional Border Patrol agents and high-technology detection systems. The wall, TBC leaders have contended, will hurt the border economies while doing little to stem the threat of terrorism. “It affects us very directly,” contended Martínez. “Many of us have a family members, friends, business relations across the border, and building a fence sends a message that we are breaking ties with them.” The international gathering, which included mayors from Mexican cities, will help spread the right image about border concerns, as well as favorably portray the local university. “It really shines a light on us and allows us to fulfill one of our functions as a major university – to project local knowledge to the world,” Martínez reflected on the event. The TBC forum was hosted by The University of Texas-Pan American. See lead story later in this posting.

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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez (center) was escorted by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg (left) and McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz upon his arrival at the University of Texas-Pan American on Thursday, April 11, for the opening of the Rapid Response Manufacturing Center. See story later in this posting.

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The development of a world-class advanced manufacturing industry in the Rio South Texas Region is one step closer following the official opening on Thursday, April 11 of the Rapid Response Manufacturing Center (RRMC) at The University of Texas-Pan American. UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas welcomed more than 200 representatives from education, business and government and presided over a ceremony that included remarks from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez, U.S. Representatives Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, and South Texas College President Dr. Shirley Reed. Featured, front, from left, are: right Dr. John Lloyd, RRMC director; Reed; Blas Castañeda, chief development officer, Laredo Community College; Cuellar; Gutiérrez; Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas; and Hinojosa. See story later in this posting.

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DOJ says ECISD paperwork seeking changes to terms of office, election date, is incomplete, delays action

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Leadership Edinburg, sponsored by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, continues to develop its understanding of complicated issues that affect the economy, politics, and goals of the city and school district in the three-time All-America City. Public school finance was one of the major issues that has been reviewed by the group, whose members are featured here during a previous meeting with top Edinburg school district leaders. Leadership Edinburg involves a nine-month program whose members meet on a monthly basis, on different topics, such as government, media, education, and quality-of-life issues. Featured in this portrait are, standing, from left: Estella Macias, Naomi Perales, Jay Flores, Loida Leal, Destiny Campos, Jerry Salazar, Victor Arteaga, Julio Rodríguez, Lupita Cano, and Nora Garza. Seated, from left, are: Mónica Rodríguez, Frank Lara, ECISD Superintendent Gilbert Garza Jr., Aurelio Flores, ECISD assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations, and Dacia Salinas. In a related matter, Aurelio Flores announced on Thursday, March 27, that the school district has received an $86,404 cash dividend from Property Casualty Alliance of Texas (PCAT), the insurance program which provides property and casualty insurance to the school district. See story on the ECISD cash dividend later in this posting.

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Retired U.S. Admiral Bobby R. Inman, a national security and international affairs expert, will be the featured speaker in Edinburg on Tuesday, April 1, at the University of Texas-Pan American. Inman’s appearance is part of the fall Global Security Studies and Leadership Speaker Series sponsored by the Integrated Global Knowledge and Understanding Collaboration (IGkNU) at The University of Texas-Pan American. His presentation is free and open to the public. See story later in this posting.

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For over 160 years, the Rio Grande Valley has served as an international border between the United States and Mexico. Customary conflicts between the two have led to many historic events in the area, including battles between Hispanic Texans and the Texas Rangers in the early 1900s, where thousands of area residents were killed or wounded by rogue members of the famed Texas Rangers. Kirby Warnock, the producer of the award-winning PBS documentary “Return to Giant”, will be at South Texas College in McAllen on Saturday, April 5, to talk about his new documentary, “Border Bandits,” which takes a new look at a very old incident. In 1915 a group of Mexican banditos raided the McAllen Ranch, one of the largest in the area. The next day a group of Texas Rangers supposedly arrived and eliminated the perpetrators. However, the real story is not as tidy as it has been portrayed. Roland Warnock, a 19-year-old cowboy working on the Guadalupe Ranch near present-day Edinburg, witnessed two of these killings when he saw Texas Rangers from Company D shoot two unarmed men in the back and leave their bodies by the side of the road. See story later in this posting.

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Mark G. Yudoff, chancellor of The University of Texas System, which includes UT-Pan American, has been appointed president of The University of California. The appointment will be effective this summer, with the exact date to be determined. H. Scott Caven, Jr., chairman of the UT Board of Regents, on Thursday, March 27, said the board would make finding a successor to Yudof a top priority, but added that he was confident the system would continue to operate efficiently and deliver academic excellence with its outstanding leadership team in place. The board will conduct a national search for a replacement, with details on the process to be announced at a later date. See story later in this posting.

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