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Edinburg EDC: Retail economy has produced almost $6.9 million in local sales taxes in past four months, ahead of same period the previous year

Featured: Students and faculty from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in February 2017 won numerous awards for creative excellence at the American Advertising Federation (AAF)-Rio Grande Valley ADDY awards competition. Shown, front row, from left, are: Ping Xu, UTRGV Assistant Professor of Graphic Design; and UTRGV students Richard Guzmán; Alexandra González; Jacqueline Maldonado; and Arael Meza. Back row, from left: Samuel Hernández; UTRGV Art Lecturer Erika Balogh; Mónica Lugo; Julio Aranda; Mariana Zapata; and Robert Gilbert, Associate Professor of Graphic Design. The Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council, along with the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, lobby the Texas Legislature and the UT System Board of Regents on behalf of UTRGV in Edinburg and the UTRGV School of Medicine in Edinburg.

Photograph Courtesy of MARCI CALTABIANO

Between November 2016 and February 2017, Edinburg’s retail economy remained ahead of the same period the year before, up 0.63 percent, based on local sales taxes generated, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. For the month of February 2017, the city’s retail economy was slightly behind the pace set during the month of February 2016 – registering a slight drop of 1.08 percent – with almost all of the other Valley communities also reporting decreases in local sales taxes generated from the same month the prior year. From November 2016 through February 2017, Edinburg’s retail economy produced $6,888,933.94 in local sales taxes, compared with $6,845,130.80 for November 2015 through February 2016, an increase of 0.63 percent. For February 2017, Edinburg’s retail economy produced $1,543,532.91 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,560,406.24 in February 2016, representing a decrease of 1.08 percent. The Edinburg EDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council.The Edinburg EDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mayor Richard García as President, Harvey Rodríguez, Jr. as Vice President, Elías Longoria, Jr. as Secretary/Treasurer, and Richard Rupert and Dr. Peter Dabrowski as Members. Mayor Richard García and Edinburg EDC Executive Director Agustín García, Jr. are not related.

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U.S. military personnel and veterans suffering from mental health trauma tied to their time in the service would get key legal protections under plan by Rep. Canales approved by Texas House

In certain situations, active duty members and veterans of the U.S. military who suffer from a brain injury, mental illness, or mental disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder, or was a victim of military sexual trauma that occurred during or resulted from the defendant’s military services – and who are convicted of their first criminal offense in Texas – would be able to have that conviction wiped off their record automatically and for free, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has proposed. His measure, House Bill 322, which was approved on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 by the Texas House of Representatives on a vote of 146 to 0, now goes to the Texas Senate for its action. HB 322 also would extend these protections to eligible members of the reserves, national guard, or state guard. Having a court order the destruction of records of the conviction is known as an expungement. An expungement is currently available for certain Texans, but the costs nationwide can start around $400 and go up to $4,000, plus court costs, depending on the nature of the charge, according to CostHelper.com. Texas veterans “are being failed by current law because in many cases these wounded warriors do not get their record expunged because it requires hiring a lawyer and paying additional court fees,” added the House District 40 state lawmaker, who is an attorney. “Such costs prevent many veterans eligible for an expungement from doing so.” But under HB 332, U.S. military personnel and veterans who successfully complete a rigorous and effective series of rehabilitative programs offered through veterans courts in Texas would be able to have their record cleared of a first offense, saving them thousands of dollars and precious time. “Criminal records are like scarlet letters that a person carries for the rest of their lives,” Canales said. “Our active military personnel and veterans fight and die for us, and I believe if they mess up, they should be given special consideration under the law.” HB 322 was requested by judges statewide who oversee the state’s veterans treatment courts.

Graphic Courtesy U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

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Edinburg EDC: $102.6 million in construction took place during first two months of 2017; “We are on track to exceed $209 million by the end of this year,” Mayor García confidently predicts

Featured, from left: Mayor Pro Tem J.R. Betancourt; Harvey Rodríguez, Jr., Vice President, Board of Directors, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Elías Longoria, Jr., Secretary/Treasurer, Board of Directors, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; and City Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr. The local leaders were in attendance on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 for the State of the City Address by Mayor Richard García, held in the recently-opened IMAX theatre in Edinburg. “Success attracts success, and major developments such as this venue where we are, is one such example,” García said. “We are proud to be the home to the only IMAX theatre south of San Antonio. This IMAX is a $5 million investment, creating 50 jobs, and contributing a riveting movie experience.”

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Featured, from left: City Councilmember David Torres and his wife, Ellie Torres, who currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District; and Ambrosio “Amos” Hernández, M.D., Mayor of Pharr, on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 for the State of the City Address by Mayor Richard García, held in the recently-opened $5 million IMAX theatre in Edinburg. Torres also is a former member of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. Mayor Richard García predicted that the construction activities in Edinburg are sure to break last year’s mark. “In 2016, the Planning and Zoning Department issued $209 in construction project permits, up from $139.5 million in 2015, $120.5 million in 2014, and $123 million in 2013,” the mayor reported. “We are on track to exceed $209 million by the end of this year.”

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Featured: City Councilmember Richard Molina and his wife, Dalia (shown smiling at the camera), take a photograph with an unidentified resident outside the recently-opened $5 million IMAX theater in Edinburg. The Molinas along with the Edinburg City Council and the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation joined several hundred area residents on Wednesday, May 12, 2017, for the State of the City Address by Mayor Richard García. Total construction activities in Edinburg during February 2017 reached more than $9.2 million – almost the exact total for the February 2016 figure – with the construction of new homes leading the way, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. Year-t0-date, however, as a result of a construction permit valued at $80 million for the city-owned Bert Ogden Arena being issued in January 2017, total construction in the city for the first two months of 2017 is valued at more than $102.6 million – more than double the $45.4 million combined level for January and February 2016.

Photographs By ALEX RÍOS

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Edinburg EDC: Local government, led by the Mayor and City Council, meets highest standards in U.S. on how Edinburg handles its finances

Featured, from left: Elías Longoria, Jr., Secretary/Treasurer, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; and Edinburg Mayor Richard García, on Friday, March 17, 2017, during groundbreaking ceremonies for the Department of Public Safety Mega Driver License Center in north Edinburg. The multi-million dollar, 25,000 square foot facility, located at the corner of Davis Road and I69C, is one of the many examples of economic growth in the city. The public safety complex, which will bring almost 70 jobs, also represents the state government’s confidence in locating in Edinburg, in part because the city excels in promoting and protecting public funds at all levels.

Photograph By ALEX RÍOS

Edinburg’s municipal government, led by the Mayor and Edinburg City Council, meets the highest standards for U.S., state and local governments on how it handles its financial activities, according to a state-required annual audit that was presented during a public meeting at Edinburg City Hall on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The Edinburg EDC, whose Executive Director is Agustín García, Jr., is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. The Edinburg EDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mayor Richard García as President, Harvey Rodríguez, Jr. as Vice President, Elías Longoria, Jr., as Secretary/Treasurer, and Richard Ruppert and Dr. Peter Dabrowski as Members. As part of its mission to help create jobs, the Edinburg EDC uses key information from independent, reliable, and authoritative sources, such as the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, released on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, to inform residents, and to maintain and increase confidence in the ethical practices of its city government, promote the expansion of existing businesses, and recruit new businesses to the community. At that meeting, held in the Council Chamber, Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC delivered an Unmodified Opinion, the best rating possible, following its examination of three aspects of the city’s financial operations: (1) internal controls; (2) statements, records, and accounting transactions; and (3) compliance with statutory and budgetary requirements. Ruben Moreno, CPA (Certified Public Accountant), Partner with Carr, Riggs and Ingram, LLC , and Aaron Ríos, CPA, Manager with Carr, Riggs and Ingram, LLC, presented the audit to Mayor Pro Tem J.R. Betancourt, himself a CPA, who was representing the mayor and fellow city councilmembers at the public session. The Unmodified Opinion, which covers the 12-month period that ended September 30, 2016, and other financial highlights by Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC send out a favorable message, locally and beyond, that Edinburg’s economy continues to be strong, and the city is a good place to call home, said Betancourt. Key financial statements by the city directly reflected positive growth in Edinburg’s economy that came without any increase in the city’s property tax rate or the local sales tax rate, Betancourt noted. “One of the great things about the audit is that is shows how well the city is doing, that we have a very fiscally strong budget, we have reserves in the bank to provide public services through emergencies,” the mayor pro tem continued. “The economy is doing well here and in the Valley. Edinburg has not been so fiscally strong in the last 10 to 15 years.”

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Roles of women in powerful statewide boards and commissions would dramatically increase under measure by Rep. Sergio Muñoz set for public hearing at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 29

Featured: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, left, and Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, discuss legislation important to the state in this image, taken Wednesday, April 15, 2015, on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives.

Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY

A proposal by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, which would allow a statewide vote in November 2017 to require that half of all future gubernatorial appointments go to qualified women, is scheduled for a public hearing at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Muñoz’ House Joint Resolution 29 is the final measure scheduled to be heard by the House Committee on State Affairs, a 13-member legislative committee that includes Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, and Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City. That committee, chaired by Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, will be meeting in Room EXT E2.108 in the Texas Capitol complex. The meeting will begin once the House of Representatives finishes up its work for the day on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. It also will be broadcast live, and the entire session can be viewed online at http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/ , then click “State Affairs” for that day. Under the Muñoz measure, if approved by the Legislature this spring, Texas voters in a statewide election on November 7, 2017, would have the power to create a law that women receive half of all gubernatorial appointments to powerful state boards, commissions, and agencies, such as the Texas Transportation Commission and The University of Texas System Board of Regents. During a four-year term, a governor will make about 3,000 appointments, according to the governor’s office. There are more than 200 state boards, commissions and agencies whose members are appointed by the governor, with the consent of the Senate. “In making any appointment to a state board, commission, or other governing body of a state agency, the governor shall, to the extent possible, ensure that the gender composition of the board, commission, or governing body reflects the gender composition of this state,” Muñoz said. In Texas, as of 2016, there were slightly more women/girls in Texas (12.6 million) than men/boys (12.4 million), according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau (https://suburbanstats.org/population/how-many-people-live-in-texas).

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Controversial practice of jailing Texans too poor to pay fines for petty offenses, such as traffic tickets, could be coming to an end following House vote in support of plan by Rep. Canales

Featured: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, addresses fellow lawmakers from the front podium in the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives during the first half of the 140-day 85th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, which began in mid-January 2017.

Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY

The long-standing practice statewide of jailing tens of thousands of Texans who are too poor to pay expensive fines for Class C misdemeanors, such as traffic tickets, could soon come to an end under legislation by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, which has been strongly approved by the Texas House of Representatives. “In Texas, tens of thousands of people are being sent to jail each year for failure to pay tickets, fines and fees arising from court cases,” said Canales, an attorney. “We have too many Texans statewide who are struggling to pay rent and groceries, then they wind up getting ticketed for the most minor offenses, such as traffic violations. In the effort by government to squeeze money out of indigent Texans, taxpayers end up paying to jail these minor offenders.” House Bill 351, which received final approval on Thursday, March 23, 2017 from the House of Representatives, would clear up confusion in existing state law so local judges, including justices of the peace, can allow the defendant to perform community service instead of being thrown into jail when they are found indigent. “At the time of sentencing, judges should also be making judgments on whether defendants can even pay the fines that are levied,” Canales said. “Low-income Texans are being set up to fail by the way fines and fees are handled, and they are often driven deeper into poverty.” A defendant who has the money to pay the fine, but refuses to pay it, would still face the risk of being jailed by a judge, he added. HB 351 would also help save taxpayers’ money because of the hidden costs, such as the expenses and legal responsibilities involved in holding a person in jail. “The valuable resources of our judicial and law enforcement professionals, and especially our jails, should remain focused on putting violent criminals, thieves and robbers behind bars, not on poor people charged with an offense whose only punishment is a fine,” said the House District 40 state representative.

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