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Edinburg rode out Hurricane Dolly in good shape, based on first reports, says Mayor Ochoa

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Crispin Fuente, store manager for JC Penny in Edinburg, participates in the ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, August 1, as Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured to Fuentes’ left, helps steady the ribbon. Almost a year to the day after groundbreaking was held for The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, the 103,000-square-foot JC Penney officially became the first retail center to open its doors at the planned 1.1 million square-foot retail, entertainment, and hotel complex, located on the northwest corner of U. S. Highway 281 and Trenton Road. The 80-store complex on 130 acres will provide one of the most unique shopping experiences in Texas. Following JC Penney will be the opening of Burlington Coat Factory in mid-August. TJ Maxx, The Shoe Department, and Academy Sports will open in the fall of this year, in time for the holiday season. More store openings will follow into next year with the addition of Lane Bryant, Ross Dress for Less and First National Bank during the early part of 2009. In addition to the mayor, other elected leaders at the ribbon-cutting included Councilmember Alma A. Garza, Councilmember Noé Garza, Elias Longoria, Jr., a member of the board of directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, Edinburg school board trustee Ciro Treviño, and Hidalgo County Tax Assessor-Collector Armando Barrera.  See story later in this posting.

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Former Edinburg Mayor Richard García, on behalf of himself and his law firm, García, Quintanilla and Palacios, has donated $10,000 to an annual fundraiser drive designed to help young people served by the Edinburg Boys & Girls Club RGV. In doing so, he issued a challenge to those in the legal community to match the gift, which was donated to the "It Just Takes One Campaign" now underway.  The campaign will raise funds for the Clubs’ after-school programs and services for youth, ages 6-18, living in Edinburg and surrounding communities. Scheduled to run through August 15, the campaign seeks donations primarily from individuals. García said he and his law partners, including Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Toribio "Terry" Palacios and C.J. Quintanilla, have previously donated money to the Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg RGV. "The community needs to see the importance of the Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg, to see that there are people contributing," García said. "Edinburg has been very good to me over the years, and I figure one of the best ways I can give back to my community is to help our children." See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, featured right, shares a laugh with Dr. Carlos Mohamed, M.D, featured left, and other Houston lawmakers during a Thursday, July 10 visit to Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, which has a state-of-the-art cancer treatment center as part of its medical complex. Cohen, a 38-year breast cancer survivor, was the first House sponsor of Proposition 15. Last November, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment which will fund $3 billion in cancer research grants to conduct research to prevent or cure cancer, support existing research efforts in Texas, and implement the Texas Cancer Plan, a statewide blueprint for cancer prevention and control. A few days after her visit to Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Cohen was a keynote speaker at “The American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer: Coming Together 2008 – A National Forum on Cancer Care in the United States” held July 14 – 15 in Baltimore, Maryland.  Featured in this photograph at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance were, from left: Mohamed, who is an obstetrician and gynocologist; Prisylla Jasso, director of the Border Health PAC, which represents Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Rep. Alma Allen, Ph.D., and Cohen.  See story on Cohen later in this posting.

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Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced on Friday, August 9, that the 10th annual sales tax holiday will take place Friday-Sunday, August 15-17. The tax holiday will provide Texas families with much needed back-to-school savings, and, for the first time, school backpacks and messenger bags costing less than $100 also will be tax exempt. "Family budgets are stretched farther than ever, especially with the high price of gasoline, groceries and other necessities,"  Zaffirini said. "I am pleased that even more items qualify for tax-free status this year so that families may enjoy greater savings." Most children’s and adult’s clothing and shoes priced less than $100 can be purchased tax-free during the holiday. A complete list of items that will be tax exempt during the sales tax holiday is available at http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxpubs/tx98_490/tx98_490.html. Since 1999 the clothing sales tax holiday has saved shoppers more than $388 million in state and local sales taxes. Zaffirini voted to expand tax holiday laws during the 2007 legislative session. Caption by Sarah Rayburn.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Champion Committee recently announced that 10 new members have joined the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Some businesses are new to the Edinburg area, while others are existing, and all help in sustaining Edinburg’s economy.  New members are as follows: Law Offices of Contreras & Muñoz;Molduflex; Wolfy’s Wine & Liquor; Elite Rehab Service LLC; State Farm Insurance; Boys & Girls Club of Edinburg; Hacienda Ford; Copy Plus; Monte Cristo Pharmacy; and The Brass Chair Barbershop. Featured in this photograph, taken at Monster Carwash, include, back row, from left:  Aaron Ramírez, Dr. Walt Greene, Roy Peña, Gary Myers, Dina Araguz, Marty Martin, María Martínez, Joel Porras, and Imelda Rodríguez. Front row, from left:  Frank Lara, Óscar Hinojosa, Joe Sánchez, Celine Schulz, Elva Jackson Garza, Flo Prater, and Jay Flores.

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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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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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Rep. Peña says Mission PD could be breaking the law by withholding videotape of Eddie Sáenz’ DWI arrest

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With just a few days before Hispanics cast their votes in the March 4 Texas primaries, a new poll released on Wednesday, February 27, showed Sen. Hillary Clinton with a commanding 41 point lead over Sen. Barack Obama. A new Latino Decisions Texas Poll found that Hillary leads her opponent among registered Latino voters in Texas 62% to 21%, with 15% undecided. The poll also shows that in head to head general election match-ups, Clinton outperforms Obama against John McCain by a margin of two to one. “While we are taking nothing for granted and working hard to earn every vote, Senator Clinton have a strong relationship with the Hispanic community in Texas dating back to 1972,” said Congressman Solomon Ortíz, D-Corpus Christi. “She’s been working with the community for 36 years, and they understand that she’s been tested, is fighting for them, and that she’s the candidate who has the best chance of beating John McCain in November.” See story later in this posting.

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Chelsea Clinton, 27, daughter of President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton, is flanked by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, as she rallied hundreds of her family’s supporters during a campaign swing on behalf of her mother in Edinburg on Saturday, February 23. Clinton, who was hosted by Edinburg attorney Ramón Garcia outside his office, reminded voters of her family’s deep ties to South Texas. Both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, are seeking the March 4 Texas Democratic Party primary nomination for president. Both presidential candidates have promised to support the construction of a Veterans Hospital in the Valley if they are elected president.

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Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton, who grew up in front of America when her father, President Bill Clinton, served eight years in the White House, poses with another potential future political candidate during Chelsea’s campaign swing into Edinburg on Saturday, February 23. Chelsea was 12 years old when her father was elected president. Her mother, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, are seeking the March 4 Texas Democratic Party primary nomination for president. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, former Hidalgo County Judge Ramón Garcia of Edinburg, and Edinburg school board president Carmen González were among the dignitaries who greeted Chelsea at the rally.

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With Sen. Barrack Obama, D-Illinois, showing strength among younger voters in his battle against Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, for the Texas Democratic Party nomination for president, the Saturday, February 23 appearance in Edinburg by Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, is drawing support from the former First Daughter’s own generation. Hundreds of Edinburg residents, including these avid supporters, showed up to greet Chelsea during her campaign swing on behalf of her mother in downtown Edinburg. Hillary Clinton and Obama are seeking the March 4 Texas Democratic Party primary nomination for president. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, former Hidalgo County Judge Ramón Garcia of Edinburg, and Edinburg school board president Carmen González were among the dignitaries who greeted Chelsea at the rally.

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Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured left, and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, stand proudly with Sen. Barrack Obama, D-Illinois, during the Democratic presidential candidate’s swing through Edinburg on Friday, February 22. The two area Democratic leaders are among a select few who have chosen to endorse Obama against Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-Illinois, in the tight race in Texas for the March 4 primary nomination, along with Edinburg School Board Trustee Robert Peña, Jr. On Wednesday, February 27, Obama also picked up a major endorsement from Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, a leading candidate for Speaker of the House in the Texas Legislature. See related story on the Thompson endorsement later in this posting.

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