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Sen. Hinojosa applauds recommendation to change leadership at Texas Department of Transportation

Edinburg City Councilmember Alma A. Garza, flanked by her parents, Dr. Omar and Dora Garza, took her oath of office on Monday, May 12, for a three-year term on the five-member governing body. Alma Garza, who for the first time in her young political career had faced an opponent, generated 63 percent of the vote, a significant margin of victory.  She was sworn in by Hidalgo County 206th District Court Judge Rose Guerra Reyna. Garza also raised more than $29,000 in campaign funds in the second phase of her campaign to help secure her victory, according to her campaign finance report filed with the City Secretary’s Office. See story later in this posting.

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Gene Espinoza, left, who was reelected to a new three-year term on Saturday, May 10, is congratulated by his uncle, Justice of the Peace Charlie Espinoza, after the city councilmember, who was joined by his immediate family, was sworn in to office on Monday, May 12.  In addition to his own many supporters, Espinoza was helped in his reelection bid by generous contributions for several prominent Edinburg-area business leaders.  The most recent list of his contributors, along with the campaign financial supporters for Councilmember Alma Garza, are featured in a story later in this posting.

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Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Toribio “Terry” Palacios, featured left, on Monday, May 12, was sworn in for another three-year term as presiding judge of the local court by  his nephew, Hidalgo County 92nd District Court Judge Ricardo Rodríguez, Jr.  Palacios, who is also a partner in the law firm of García, Quintanilla and Palacios in McAllen – which includes former Edinburg Mayor Richard García – serves a key role in the administering of justice in the community. Rodríguez was  a former Edinburg City Councilmember before resigning that post in October 2005 to make his own successful bid for district judge. According to CourtReference.com, municipal courts in Texas have original and exclusive jurisdiction over criminal violations of certain municipal ordinances and airport board rules, orders, or resolutions that do not exceed $2,500 in some instances and $500 in others. Municipal courts also have concurrent jurisdiction with the justice courts in certain misdemeanor criminal cases. In addition to the jurisdiction of a regular municipal court, municipal courts of record also have jurisdiction over criminal cases arising under ordinances authorized by certain provisions of the Texas Local Government Code. The municipality may also provide by ordinance that a municipal court of record have additional jurisdiction in certain civil and criminal matters. Municipal judges also serve in the capacity of a committing magistrate, with the authority to issue warrants for the apprehension and arrest of persons charged with the commission of both felony and misdemeanor offenses. As a magistrate, the municipal judge may hold preliminary hearings, reduce testimony to writing, discharge the accused, or remand the accused to jail and set bail.

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Dr. Scott Cook, one of the world’s expert on Mexican brick culture, has a unique window on Valley’s history, and he will be in Edinburg on Wednesday, June 11, to share those perspectives at the Museum for South Texas History, located at 200 N. Closner, immediately northeast of the Hidalgo County Courthouse. Accompanying him will be local musicologists and “North of the Border” radio show hosts Joe and Rosa Pérez (singing songs of the brick-makers).  The presentations will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and wine and hors d’oeuvres will be provided.  Cook is professor emeritus of anthropology and interim director of the Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut. He lives in Willimantic, Connecticut. There is a $5 donation requested, and the event calls for business casual attire. To RSVP or obtain more information, interested persons may call 956/ 776-0100, extension 311.

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Democrat Criss champions civil rights, equal justice as controversy faces GOP-led Texas Supreme Court

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Dolia González, mother of Edinburg war hero Alfredo “Freddy” González, is comforted by Gov. Rick Perry as they both look at the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, the state’s highest recognition for valor, which was posthumously bestowed upon the national war hero by Perry at an historical event at Cats Stadium on Monday, February 4 – the 40th anniversary of the young Marine’s death in action in Vietnam. “The story of Freddy González will be told as long as there is a Texas,” the governor said. Featured, from left, are: Commander R. Alistair Borchert, Commanding Officer of the USS González, a $900 million guided missile destroyer named in honor of the Edinburg native son; Dolia González; the governor; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; former Texas Longhorn head coach Fred Akers, for whom González played quarterback when Akers was head coach for the Edinburg Bobcats; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Edinburg school district superintendent Gilberto Garza, Jr.; and Letty Garza, KRGV-TV anchorwoman who served as the the mistress of ceremonies. See story later in this posting.

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Hundreds of area residents looked on from the stands at Cats Stadium in Edinburg on Monday, February 4, to bear witness to a ceremony honoring the late Marine Sgt. Alfredo “Freddy” González as a Texas hero. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, a former U.S. Marine squad leader in Vietnam, was one of the dignitaries to participate in the event. Hinojosa was a high school quarterback for his hometown of Mission and he remembered playing against González, the quarterback for Edinburg’s only high school back in the 1960s. “I am very proud of Freddy González, and of his mon, who gave up her son so we can enjoy our freedom,” Hinojosa said. “As I stand on this football field today, I can feel Freddy’s spirit. From this community, we produce people who are young, raised by our families, but who are willing to become adults and fight for our country. For us, there would be no freedom, no America, if it were not for people like Freddy González.” See story later in this posting.

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Janiece Longoria, a daughter of the late Sen. Raúl Longoria, a longtime Democratic political leader in Hidalgo County, on Friday, February 1, was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, to the University of Texas Board of Regents for a term to expire February 1, 2011. Longoria, who was raised in Pharr before leaving the Rio Grande Valley to attend the University of Texas at Austin and the UT Law School, currently resides in Houston as a partner in the law firm of Ogden, Gibson, Boocks & Longoria, L.L.P. She succeeds Robert Estrada of Dallas, whose term had expired. Estrada is formerly of Brownsville.Fittingly, her first meeting as a UT regent was held in Edinburg on Wednesday, February 6 and Thursday, February 7, when the governing board held one of its rare session out of Austin. See story later in this posting.

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Place 4 City Councilmember Alma A. Garza, who also serves as mayor pro-tem, on Thursday, January 31, asked hundreds of her friends and family members at her campaign kick-off at the ECHO to support her bid for a new, three-year term during the May 10 city elections. She noted that the city’s continuing strong economy – low unemployment rates, major new commercial and residential projects, strong retail and medical performances – is among the many good reasons for voters to keep her in office. Garza will be facing Johnny Rodríguez, CEO of Austin Personnel Services of Edinburg, who is making his first run for elected office. “We have 100 days until May 10 – 100 days to run this election,” she rallied her troops. “I take nothing and no one’s vote for granted. Please note that in the next 100 days I will be runing con todo mi corazón (with all my heart). See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, grills officials with the Texas Department of Transportation, disputing the agency’s claims that it no longer has necessary funding to continue work on public roads, though it continues to spend tax money to support toll projects. “I am dismayed that the legislature didn’t receive accurate information regarding TxDOT spending,” Zaffirini said on Tuesday, February 5, during a joint legislative hearing in Austin of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Transportation Committee. “It is crucial that we get to the bottom of this, as projects across the state are being delayed or cancelled.” To her left is Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and to her right is Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan. See story later in this posting.

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Election legal paperwork filed by Justice Yañez could result in Republicans kicking her off ballot

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Eddie Sáenz, featured second from right, on Monday, December 31, officially filed for state representative, House District 40, to challenge Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, in the March 4 Democratic Party primary. Sáenz was joined by his family and by Juan Maldonado, Hidalgo County Democratic Party chairman, and Maldonado’s son, Juan, at the county Democratic Party headquarters in Pharr. Sáenz said that under the legislative terms of Peña and Peña’s Austin allies, hundreds of thousands of eligible children have been stripped of their health benefits, college tuition costs have almost doubled at Texas’ flagship university, families and small business are charged an average of 54 percent more in utilities, and homeowners are forced to pay more than twice the national average to insure their homes. Peña, meanwhile, criticized Sáenz for failing to appear at a local Democratic Party event onj Wednesday evening, January 2, hinting of some of the attacks Peña, a local trial lawyer, will launch against Sáenz, a civil engineer: “Based on information that has reached our campaign on his residence and his disregard and failure to appear at tonight’s important Democratic function for a minimal debate he should really consider dropping out of the race,” Peña wrote in his political website. Featured with Sáenz in this portrait are, from left, his wife, Sandra; Juan Maldonado and his father, Juan Maldonado; Eddie Sáenz; and Eddie and Sandra’s daughter, Cassie. See story later in this posting.

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McAllen attorney Javier Villalobos, left, hears from a potential constituent, Fred Zambrano, last summer in McAllen at the onset of Villalobos’ campaign run for state representative, House District 41 – currently held by Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen – which includes southwest Edinburg. Villalobos filed as a Republican candidate on Wednesday, January 2, marking his official first entry as a political candidate. If elected, Villalobos would be the first Republican to win a state representative seat in Hidalgo County. In addition to Villalobos/ Gonzáles race, which won’t be decided until the November 2008 presidential election, there are two other contested battles for the Texas Legislature in Hidalgo County. Eddie Sáenz and Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, are involved in the House 40 Democratic Party primary contest, and Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, is being challenged by Sandra Rodríguez for the House 36 legislative post.

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Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, featured left during a recent event at the University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, was one of three Hidalgo County lawmakers who drew no opponents for their respective legislative seats in 2008. In addition to Lucio, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, also will be unopposed for reelection. Lucio and Hinojosa will begin serving new, four-year terms beginning in January 2009; Martínez will begin serving a new, two-year term in January 2009.

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Javier Villalobos raises $60,000, hopes for GOP in local House District 41 race against Rep. Gonzáles

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Javier Villalobos of McAllen, who is seeking the House District 41 state representative seat currently held by Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, points to more than 300 friends who showed up on Thursday, October 4 in McAllen for a fundraiser to help power his campaign. “The winds of change are coming,” Villalobos told his supporters. “I think people are interested, and they do want to help. We were hoping to raise about $20,000 or $25,000, but we were able to raise $61,400.” See story later in this posting.

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Ramiro Garza, Jr., executive director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, gestures to a screen containing economic and demographic information about the city during a Thursday, October 4 commercial real estate roundtable hosted by the EEDC at the Edinburg Depot. Leticia Reyes, EEDC project manager featured left, also participate in the presentation. See story later in this posting.

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Sebastian J. Izaguirre, son of José and Mayra Izaguirre from Edinburg, was the first baby born at the newly-opened, $67 million Women’s Hospital at Renaissance. The baby was delivered at 3:14 p.m. on Monday, October 1, weighing seven pounds and measuring 20.5 inches. “This modern state-of-the-art facility is the Valley’s only hospital dedicated exclusively to women’s healthcare needs,” says Marissa Castañeda, DHR Chief Operations Officer. “We are elated to join with over 45 obstetric and gynecological physicians in providing the highest quality care to women in South Texas.” In recognition of being the first baby born at The Women’s Hospital at Renaissance, Baby Izaguirre received a $10,000 savings bond from Lone Star National Bank and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. HEB Food Stores was present during the formal presentation to the community and will be providing a supply of diapers and wipes for the first year to the Izaguirre family. The Women’s Hospital at Renaissance is scheduled to deliver 8,000 babies in its first year of operation and will revolutionize women’s healthcare in our region. For more information please call the Women’s Hospital at Renaissance at (956) 688-4000.

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