Featured: Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortéz, left, and Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, flash the famous Texas Longhorns “Hook ’em” sign on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 during a photo session soon after Cortéz took his oath of office during a ceremony held in the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court room, located on the 1st floor, at 100 E. Cano Street.
Photograph Courtesy JULIA SULLIVAN
Featured, from left: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen during the Tuesday, December 4, 2018 public meeting of the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court was among federal, state, county and local leaders to pay homage to Hidalgo County Commissioner Precinct 4 Joseph Palacios for Palacios’ two four-year terms in that office. On January 1, 2019, Ellie Torres of Edinburg will succeed Palacios as the new county commissioner.
Photograph By EVANA VLECK
Featured: First row, from left: Martin V. “Marty” Baylor, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; former Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, Vice President for Government and Community Relations, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; Elva Jackson Garza, Vice President and Marketing & Business Development Manager, Edwards Abstract & Title Company; Lucy G. Canales, Partner, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson LLP; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Alex Ríos, District Director, Rep. Terry Canales; and Robert McGurk, Senior Vice President, Elsa State Bank & Trust Company. Back row, from left: Edinburg Fire Chief Shawn Snider; Jacob De León, Funeral Director, Memorial Funeral Home; Edinburg City Councilmember David Torres; and Michael Williamson, Market President, PlainsCapital Bank. This portrait was taken at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce’s Public Affairs Legislative Luncheon held on Thursday, August 27, 2015 at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center.
Photograph By RONNIE LARRALDE
Chalk up Hidalgo County as the first region in Texas that allows attorneys in all criminal cases to file pleadings and documents electronically – known as e-filing – as a result of a state law passed two years ago by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, which will continue to bring the state’s court system into the paperless generation. Effective Tuesday, September 1, the eyes of the state judicial system began looking at the use of e-filing in criminal cases in Hidalgo County, as the rest of the Texas prepares to follow Hidalgo County’s lead beginning on November 1 in implementing a new system designed to improve justice for all. Canales is confident that his measure – House Bill 349, which was sponsored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, two years ago – will be a resounding success. HB 349 is designed to improve the delivery of justice in Hidalgo County, reduce costs to county taxpayers, attorneys and litigants, and take advantage of the latest technological advances in the state’s legal system, the House District 40 lawmaker contends. “Courts have long been burdened with processing paper, a problem that continues to grow exponentially and largely unabated,” said Canales. “After more than 167 years of processing traditional filing, Texas Court Clerks are awash in the state’s judicial paper trail. Electronic filing offers a means to stem the paper tide.” Hinojosa, citing data provided by the Office of the Hidalgo County District Clerk, reported that in 2014, there were 5,170 criminal cases filed, in addition to 19,341 civil and family cases. “One of the key advantages of the e-filing system, both in civil and criminal cases, is it allows attorneys more time during the day to submit their motions, rather than face a 5 p.m. deadline,” the state senator explained. “The statewide e-filing portal (efiletexas.gov) allows filers to file documents until midnight during regular business days in both civil and criminal cases. As a result, attorneys have more flexibility and are no longer rushed to file documents at the courthouse before closing hour at 5 p.m.” There would be no cost to the county government to use the e-filing system for civil or criminal cases, and there would be no cost to litigants who are too poor to pay for the service, Canales added. Later this fall, Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa (no relation to Sen. Hinojosa) will organize a question-and-answer session for the area’s attorneys to help them better understand the e-filing system for criminal cases. The details of that event will soon be announced by District Clerk Hinojosa. Also under the new state law, Hidalgo County can still allow traditional paper filing as well. Canales predicts that the future is at hand. ‘The era of big paper is over,” Canales said. According to dictionary.law.com, a motion is a formal request made to a judge for an order or judgment. Motions are made in court all the time for many purposes: to continue (postpone) a trial to a later date, to get a modification of an order, for temporary child support, for a judgment, for dismissal of the opposing party’s case, for a rehearing, for sanctions (payment of the moving party’s costs or attorney’s fees), or for dozens of other purposes. Most motions require a written petition, a written brief of legal reasons for granting the motion (often called “points and authorities”), written notice to the attorney for the opposing party and a hearing before a judge. However, during a trial or a hearing, an oral motion may be permitted
Featured: A section of the $70 million, four-story addition to the Science Building at The University of Texas-Pan American, which received final approval for funding and design development by the UT System Board of Regents in Austin on Thursday, May 14.
Graphics Courtesy MUÑOZ AND COMPANY
A $70 million addition to the Science Building at the University of Texas-Pan American has been approved by the UT System Board of Regents, paving the way for thousands of students a year to receive a cutting-edge education that will lead to professions focused on preventing and treating diseases that cause illnesses and deaths in people, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. Meeting in Austin for a regularly-scheduled public meeting, the nine-member UT System governing board, which includes Ernest Aliseda of McAllen, on Thursday, May 14, gave final approval for the release of funding and of design development for the 115,000-square-foot structure. Anticipated construction start is scheduled for December 2015, anticipated substantial completion will take place by December 2017, and the final completion is expected by February 2018, according to the UT System. “This new facility represents the next big wave of higher education opportunities in Edinburg and for deep South Texas,” said Mayor Richard García. “In addition to the positive economic impact in our community from its construction, it will provide the crucial infrastructure, such as classrooms, offices, suites, works stations, laboratories, and equipment, to increase STEM graduates to 873 a year, and provide 16 additional labs that will reduce the time to graduate.” STEM stands for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Four teaching labs will allow 4,200 students to take courses and labs during the same semester. The overall project will accommodate 16 additional research labs, two classrooms, 42 faculty offices, 11 staff work stations, and eight suites for research assistants. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, STEM-related programs became a national priority in 2011 because too few college students are pursuing degrees in these fields. The U.S. Department of Labor expects that there will be 1.2 million job openings in STEM related fields by 2018, but there won’t be enough qualified graduates to fill them. The EEDC, which is led by García, is the jobs-creation arm of the mayor and Edinburg City Council. The mayor serves as the President of the five-member EEDC Board of Directors, which works with EEDC Executive Director Agustín “Gus” García, Jr. and his staff on major projects, such as new construction and additional degree programs at UT-Pan American. Mayor Richard García and EEDC Executive Director Gus García are not related. Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, President Ad Interim for UT-Pan American, also serves on the EEDC Board of Directors. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, whose House District 40 is home to UT-Pan American, works closely with the city’s elected and appointed leadership, as well as with UT System and UTPA officials, to promote growth and investment at the Edinburg campus, which serves more than 20,000 students. “I wish to commend the University of Texas System Board of Regents for their vision and drive to grow and expand the System’s resources in deep South Texas,” Canales said. “The Science Building (addition) will provide much needed classroom and lab space for the university, while increasing the instructional efficiency for all students of the new University of Texas System institution.” Canales in 2o13 was a joint cosponsor of Senate Bill 24 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, which is combining the resources of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville into that new institution referenced by Canales, to be known as The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. UT-Pan American will be the largest component of UT-RGV, complete with a full-fledged medical school, at the end of this August, when UT-Rio Grande Valley becomes a reality. “UT-RGV is more than a new university or a new logo, it is a vision for the future of our community. The investments that the UT System Board of Regents has made in the Rio Grande Valley bring with it a new opportunity for our youth to pursue a quality education and work towards a brighter future for them and their families,” Canales said. Michael O’Donnell, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning and Construction for the UT System, noted that the $70 million addition will also provide the space necessary to increase research capacity for approximately 168 researchers, supporting physical and biological sciences with a focus on biomedical research. Hinojosa, whose Senate District 27 includes UT-Pan American, praised the emphasis on producing more students with high-level biomedical research capabilities. “Biomedical research involves the sciences whose goal is to come up with effective treatments and cures for the most serious afflictions, and just like the School of Medicine that is now under construction in Edinburg, this new addition to our Science Building will produce dramatic advances for all of Texas,” said Hinojosa. “When the upcoming 115,000 square-foot addition is connected to the existing Science Building, we will wind up with a 272,000 square-foot intensive STEM research and learning center. It is going to be an extremely large and impressive state-of-the-art complex.” The building will support 21st-century classroom and teaching pedagogies by providing additional group study rooms, collaboration spaces, huddle rooms located throughout the facility, and flexible classrooms and teaching labs supported with AV and IT technologies for long distance and enhanced learning, O’Donnell added. Rooms will also be designed to support multiple furniture configurations. He noted some of the many complexities of linking the Science Building and the $70 million addition. We are constructing a building on a completed, basically built-out campus. Accordingly, the vision and the decision consistent with the Master Plan to put this building in there, this is as big a building as we could fit in there. It met the needs of the campus as it was designed,” O’Donnell said. “But at the same time, this particular addition is very difficult to build, because we have to do lifts from outside, with cranes, into the facility, into the courtyard, to be able to complete the building.” Despite the challenges of connecting the $70 million addition to the exiting Science Building – including having to import contractors from outside the Valley for considerable specialized work – “this building is going to be built for a 21st century learning,” he said.
Featured, from left: Dr. Dahlia Guerra, D.M.A., Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, the University of Texas-Pan American; Edinburg Mayor Richard García; Kirk Clark and Jeri Clark, patrons of the UTPA arts, on Thursday, April 23, in the reception room of the $42.7 million Performing Arts Complex at The University of Texas-Pan American.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
Edinburg’s unemployment rate for March 2015 was 4.8 percent, representing the second consecutive month that the city posted a monthly rate under five percent, with only McAllen being the other major Valley city to come under five percent, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. Edinburg’s unemployment rate, as reported by the Texas Workforce Commission, was the best showing for the city during that month since March 2008, when it was reported at 4.4 percent by the state agency. The city’s latest performance also was better than the U.S. unemployment rate for March 2015, which came in at 5.5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. The latest data represents an increase of 457 jobs in Edinburg when comparing the employment figures for March 2015 and March 2014. In March 2015, there were 35,651 persons employed in Edinburg, compared with 35,194 in March 2014. Those most recent figures, released on Friday, April 19 by the Texas Workforce Commission, came about a week before the Grand Premier of the Performing Arts Complex at The University of Texas-Pan American. On Thursday, April 23, the latest ultra-modern complex in Edinburg formally opened to the public, with a free concert, which included faculty and student performers from both campuses, that attracted not only arts patrons, but also students and community members to the 1,000-seat, state-of-the-art performance hall. Dr. Dahlia Guerra, D.M.A., Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, built on the economic impact theme of the new performing arts conglomerate. “The arts bring so much to a community. It is the heart and soul,” said Guerra, whose brother is Edinburg Mayor Richard García. “The artists bring with them a draw to the community because a city wants to have these opportunities to offer their citizens.” In addition to the cultural aspects of Edinburg that will be enhanced because of the new facility, the financial prosperity of the city also will be increased, she added. “A community that is rich in the arts and rich in culture, it draws business, it draws hotels, it benefits the local economy because people will come to Edinburg to see the events, concerts, art exhibits,” Guerra said. “A rich community will be rich in arts and culture.” The Performing Arts Complex is a $42.7 million investment by the Texas Legislature and the UT System Board of Regents which was the result of successful lobbying several years ago by the Edinburg Mayor, Edinburg City Council, and Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. City officials credit Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, for delivering on the state legislation that resulted in the funding, through the issuance of tuition revenue bonds, for the Performing Arts Complex. Hinojosa shared the praise with his fellow state lawmakers and UTPA leaders, past and present, and reflected on the significance of the Performing Arts Complex. “Today is a momentous day in the history of this campus and of our community. We are opening the most magnificent performing arts center you can imagine,” said Hinojosa, who participated in the public ceremony. “It is wonderful acoustics, incredible lighting and sounds. The most important part to me is that it is an academic performing hall. There are classrooms which are rehearsal halls for our students. Now, they will have the best facilities, and it really does makes a difference when it comes time for performing.” Guerra provided additional details that are designed to make all performances reach world-class levels. “On this stage, there is an incredible amount of clarity. The sound bounces from the stage through the entire auditorium, so the student is required to have very fine-tuning skills to listen carefully and make sure he or she is at the top of their game,” she said. “We will see an improvement in the musical skills of our students.”