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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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Santana Textiles Corporation of Brazil to build $180 million manufacturing plant in Edinburg

A South American textile company will build a $180 million denim-manufacturing plant, featured in this artist’s rendition, in Edinburg, creating 800 new jobs and pumping millions of dollars into the local economy, Gov. Rick Perry and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation announced on Wednesday, July 2. Santana Textiles Corporation of Ceara, Brazil, one of the world’s largest denim manufacturers, plans to construct – on a 23-acre site located in Edinburg’s North Industrial Park – a 300,000-square-foot complex.  The first phase of the sprawling facility, which will be built in three stages, is slated to open in 2010. When the three phases are completed in 2014, the foreign-owned enterprise, which will include a treatment plant, will eventually encompass about 400,000-square-feet of manufacturing space.  See lead story in this posting.

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Gov. Rick Perry (featured left) on Wednesday, July 2, reacts to humorous comments while sharing the stage at the University of Texas-Pan American with two members of the Delfino family of Brazil, owners of a planned manufacturing center projected to use much of the cotton produced in Texas to make denim, the fabric made famous by blue jeans. The governor reassured the Delfinos (son Raimundo “Neto”, the firm’s general manager, center, and his father, Raimundo, president of the major company).  “I’m kind of like this denim thing the way I was about Toyota and their pick-up trucks,” Perry said, referring to his successful venture in early 2003 that helped bring a Tundra truck manufacturing plant to San Antonio. “If you are going to manufacture a pick-up truck, where else are you going to build it except in Texas? Now, if you are going to process and produce denim, where else are you going to do it except in a place where they wear more denim than anywhere else in the world?”  See lead story in this posting.

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With area and regional news media in the background, City Councilmember Alma Garza, Councilmember Noé Garza (no relation), and Mayor Pro Tem Gene Espinoza  listen during a Wednesday, July 2 press conference in Edinburg about the projected economic impact on the city with the scheduled construction of a state-of-the-art denim manufacturing plan at the Edinburg North Industrial Park. Councilmember Noé Garza agreed with Gov. Rick Perry’s assessment during the morning press conference at the University of Texas-Pan American that Santana Textiles Corporation’s move to Edinburg is a “pivotal” event for the local and regional economies. “This will bring other firms who have hesitated before. Now, they know that it can be done, and they will be coming down,”  Noé Garza said. “This is just a start – in the very near future, there will be other major announcements coming for Edinburg. For the longest time, people have looked at McAllen as the place to be, but Edinburg is the place to be, both now and in the future.”  See lead story in this posting.

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Raimundo “Neto” Delfino, featured left, worked the Edinburg crowd on Wednesday, July 2, following an major announcement by Gov. Rick Perry that the Delfino family, owners of Santana Textiles from Brazil, would be investing up to $180 million to build a major denim manufacturing plant in Edinburg.  The company selected Edinburg after a competitive search throughout locations in North and South America. They chose Edinburg because of the state and local incentives, as well as the city’s proximity to cotton growers, said “Neto” Delfino. “After evaluating all the sites, we decided that Edinburg offered all the right conditions to expand our denim manufacturing operations in the U.S.,” he added. “We couldn’t find a better partner than the State of Texas and the City of Edinburg.”  With Delfino in this portrait are, from left: Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City;  Ramiro Garza, executive director of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; and Rep. Aaron Peña, Jr., D-Edinburg.  See lead story in this posting.

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Renowned as one of the few “Three-Time All-America City” recipients in Texas – a civic honor bestowed upon successful, citizen-driven communities in the nation by the National Civic League – Edinburg may have to change that slogan to reflect the planned $180 million infusion of private capital from a South American company that will be building a denim manufacturing complex in Edinburg.  The news of a major manufacturing business making Edinburg their latest home – and their first in the U.S. – was roundly applauded during a Wednesday, July 2 press conference at the University of Texas-Pan American.  Among the leaders in attendance were, from left: Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III; Rep. Veronica Gonzales, D-McAllen;  Raimundo “Neto” Delfino, general manager of Santana Textiles Corporation of Ceara, Brazil; Mayor Joe Ochoa; former Mayor Richard García; and Raimundo Delfino, president of the South American company.  See lead story in this posting.

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Sen. Hinojosa announces plan by TXU to allow low-income and senior citizens to spread out payments of upcoming costly summer utility bills

Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick on Wednesday, April 30, told area residents in McAllen that he has been a champion for Texas community colleges since his 1969 election as a state representative from Midland. It was his work with Midland College, he says, that led him to realize the important role of community colleges. “Being here today makes time served in the legislature worthwhile,” Craddick told a crowd during his late morning visit to the South Texas College Pecan Campus in McAllen. The college honored Craddick at a reception and thanked him for his many contributions to STC and other Texas community colleges. Featured with him in this portrait are, from left: STC Board of Trustees member Mike Allen; STC President Dr. Shirley Reed; Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview; Craddick; STC Board of Trustees president Irene García; Palmview Mayor Jorge García; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; and Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen. See story later in this posting.

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Howard Pebley, featured left, on Wednesday, April 30, in Pharr received a special award from Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, center, honoring Pebley, President of McAllen Construction, for his many years of dedicated service to the Republican Party and the community. Craddick, a Republican from Midland, was the keynote speaker for the Lincoln Day Dinner, which raises funds for the Hidalgo County Republican Party. Hollis Rutledge, featured right, who is chairman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party, told more than 100 supporters at the event of Pebley’s considerable professional and community achievements, ranging from serving as chairman of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, being appointed by then Gov. George W. Bush to the One Call Board of Texas, to holding the leadership role of President of the Associated General Contractors of Texas (Highway, Heavy Utility, and Industrial Branch).

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Five student leaders at The University of Texas-Pan American were honored during the Salute the Leaders Award Luncheon held April 17 as part of the annual National Student Leadership Week April 14 – 19. Now in its fourth year, the program hosted by the UTPA Student Leadership Academy and Program, honors outstanding university students for campus and community involvement. Students are nominated based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, and/or service to the community. Forty-four students were nominated. Featured are award recipients Melissa Hernández, graduate student in occupational therapy, from Pharr; Cruz Ríos, senior communications major, from Edinburg; Diana Cepeda, senior biology major, from Los Fresnos; and María Hinojosa, senior bilingual education major, from Donna. Not pictured is James Berglund, senior biology major, from Corpus Christi. For more information on the Student Leadership Academy, contact Amy Martin, program coordinator, at 956/381-2262.

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Gov. Perry orders flags at half-staff in memory of Lena Guerrero of Mission, who was first woman and first minority to serve on Texas Railroad Commission

Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland, will be honored on Wednesday, April 30 by South Texas College at its Pecan Campus in McAllen. The event, which is free and open to the public, represents a major coup for the community college because as speaker, Craddick is one of the three most powerful men in the Texas Legislature, along with Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, also both Republicans. Craddick’s visit also represents his first public venture into South Texas after he helped significantly fund the successful reelection bids in March by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, and Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview. Both South Texas Democrats were roundly criticized for being loyal to Craddick and some of his policies, including a controversial plan which was blamed for costing the Rio Grande Valley an additional congressional seat, and with it, hundreds of millions of dollars annually in federal funds. However, Peña and Flores opposed Craddick’s congressional redistricting efforts, and countered that by being loyal to Craddick, South Texas has picked up large increases in state funding and programs at higher levels than many other regions of the state.

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In a spirited ceremony “a la Bobcat-style,” Edinburg High School was honored on Wednesday, April 22, by the College Board with a 2008 College Board Inspiration Award and a check for $25,000 at a special assembly. EHS is one of three schools in the nation to receive the coveted 2008 award. Featured accepting the 2008 College Board Inspiration Award at the event, from left, are: ECISD Trustee Robert Peña; Gabriel Luna, Jarrod Salaiz, and Cassandra Sáenz, EHS student leaders; Peter Negroni, College Board Senior Vice president; ECISD Trustee David Torres; and ECISD Trustee and Vice President Omar Palacios. See story later in this posting.

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Small business owners from not only South Texas but from as far away as Georgia joined faculty and staff members at The University of Texas-Pan American April 16-17 to learn how to successfully identify and pursue government contract opportunities with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Participating in the workshop hosted by UT-Pan American, and co-sponsored by the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which contracted with RGF Consulting Corporation (RGFCC) to conduct the workshop were, from left: Cassandra Ford, presenter, RGFCC; Clarence Randall Jr., OSDBU; Teneshia G. Alston, HSS; Deborah Walker-Sewell, RGFCC; Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, UTPA vice president for Research and Sponsored Projects; Felicia Gaston, presenter, F.M. Gaston Associates; Theresa Bailey, UTPA director of Sponsored Projects; and Robert Flowers Jr., presenter and RGFCC president/CEO. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, recently addressed the membership of Us Too – McAllen Chapter, a prostrate cancer support group, as a guest speaker to deliver her message of hope for advancing cancer research in Texas at the Edinburg Regional Medical Center. “Statistics are well known, but they are no less shocking,” said Gonzáles. “These men and their families are the lucky ones.” Among the most shocking statistics state that in Texas; one in four deaths is caused by cancer. A new case of prostate cancer occurs ever 2.5 minutes and a man dies from prostrate cancer every 19 minutes. The estimated total cost of cancer in Texas is $30 billion a year. Gonzáles shared with the audience of cancer survivors her hope with the success of Texans’ efforts to approve the landmark creation of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. See story later in this posting.

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Hidalgo County Road Builders negotiates $46.3 million contract to work on Hidalgo County Loop project for local Regional Mobility Authority

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Mayor Pro Tem Alma Garza and Johnny Rodríguez, her opponent in the Saturday, May 10 city council elections, maintained a positive, friendly tone on Wednesday, March 12, when both candidates showed up late that morning at Edinburg City Hall to see whose name will be placed first on the ballot for their seat. Staff members for the City Secretary drew the names with the candidates looking on as witnesses. Garza will have her name first on the ballot. In the second race, challenger Leonel Guerrero’s name will be first on the ballot in his race against Councilmember Gene Espinoza. Guerrero also attended the drawing, which was open to the public. Espinoza was unable to attend due to other important business. Garza and Rodríguez are vying for the Place 4 city council post, while Guerrero and Espinoza are seeking the Place 3 seat.

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Gerry Pate, standing left, managing general partner with Hidalgo County Road Builders, a private coalition, has negotiated a $46.3 million contract with the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority – a governmental entity – to provide pre-construction services in preparation for the building of major portions of the $645 million Hidalgo County Loop, which will be designed to shuttle heavy commercial truck traffic coming to and from the region. Services included in the agreement include advance planning, environmental clearance, preliminary and final design, right-of-way acquisition services. The contract was approved on Thursday, February 28. HCRB is contracted to complete the pre-construction services within 18 months and deliver to the RMA board a guaranteed maximum price for the completion, including construction of a major portion of the loop project by 2013. The agreement is expected to be executed within the next week. Also featured with Pate is Jacinto Garza, the project engineer. Both men were addressing the RMA board during the organization’s meeting in Weslaco on Thursday, February 28. See lead story later in this posting.

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Bryant Morrison, a faculty member at the University of Texas-Pan American, addressed the Edinburg School Board on Tuesday, March 11, to announce the formation of Yes4Kids, a political action committee that will raise money to help pass a two propositions relating to the construction and renovation of schools in the district. The election will be held on Saturday, March 10. were among some of the Yes4Kids members who made their pitch before the Edinburg school board during the trustees’ regularly bimonthly meeting on Tuesday, March 11. Also at the meeting were opponents of the bond election, who are concerned that, with the U.S. economy slowing down – possibly already in an economic recession – now is not the time for local taxpayers to go into long-term debt by passing bond issues. But Morrison and other bond proposals believe otherwise. “We don’t need their money, we need their support and we need the community discussing the pros and cons of the bond. The more people talk, the more they will see that there is really no debate here,” Morrison said. “When they get the information, they will see we will be saving money, we will get a bigger bang for the bank, and we will relieve the district from some of the bond debt they already have.” See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, recently presented a $500 check to Women Together/Mujeres Unidas, a local charity organization whose vision is to end violence so that individuals may live without fear, abuse or oppression. The mission of Women Together/Mujeres Unidas is to provide shelter and support services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and their families. Martínez organized a charity event in November 2007 to benefit various charity organizations in the Rio Grande Valley. Among those charities that benefited from the event was Women Together/Mujeres Unidas. Since 1978 Women Together/Mujeres Unidas has worked to end domestic violence and sexual assault in Hidalgo and Starr Counties. Women Together/Mujeres Unidas have three locations, two in McAllen and one in Weslaco. They provide education, awareness and prevention programs to the communities. Featured with the Mid-Valley lawmaker is Marlene Ramírez, Outreach Advocate for Women Together/Mujeres Unidas in front of Martínez’ district office in Weslaco.

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