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Improving the diversity of student enrollments at UT-Austin, Texas A&M-College Station, vital now and for Texas’ future, says Rep. Terry Canales

Arnold De La Paz, Founder and President, The DLP Group, Inc., Corpus Christi; Gloria Pérez, President, Asiel Enterprises, Inc., Corpus Christi; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Roland Barrera, Owner, Roland Barrera Insurance

Featured: Arnold De La Paz, Founder and President, The DLP Group, Inc., Corpus Christi; Gloria Pérez, President, Asiel Enterprises, Inc., Corpus Christi; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Roland Barrera, Owner, Roland Barrera Insurance, Corpus Christi, and Past Chair of Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, during the 39th Annual Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce State Convention on Saturday, August 2, 2014, at the former Embassy Suites by Hilton Hotel in McAllen.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

The state’s public universities, especially the flagship campuses of The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University at College Station, must continue to increase the enrollment of Hispanic and other racial and ethnic minorities in order to best prepare all Texans for a bright future, says Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. “Texas, which is the best state in the nation, has seen the Hispanic population become almost as large as the Anglo population, but we do not see Hispanics and other minority groups properly represented in the classrooms at UT-Austin and Texas A&M-College Station, which are among wealthiest public universities in the world,” said Canales. “We still have a ways to go, but we are moving in the right direction.” As part of his efforts to open more doors to all Texans at the mammoth UT and Texas A&M campuses, Canales has become one of 53 state lawmakers who have signed a legal document, known as an amicus brief, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to support efforts that allow UT to consider race and ethnicity, among other factors, in order to promote diversity in its student population. In the Fall of 2014, 19.2 percent of the student enrollment at UT-Austin was Hispanic, while at Texas A&M during the same semester, 21.9 percent of the student enrollment was Hispanic. By comparison, the Hispanic population in 2014, as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau, is 38.6 percent of the state’s almost 27 million residents. That figure approaches the number of Anglos in Texas, who make up almost 44 percent of the state’s population. African Americans represent the third largest population group in the state, totaling 12.5 percent of all Texans. Canales said since UT-Austin and Texas A&M-College Station were created by the Texas Legislature to serve all of Texas, it is incumbent upon the Legislature to improve what he called “dismal” student enrollment rates at those two campuses of Hispanic and other minority groups. Although the amicus brief focuses on increasing the number of racial and ethnic minorities at UT-Austin, Canales said first and foremost he remains focused on ongoing efforts to transform The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley into the next UT-Austin and Texas A&M-College Station. “Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. The students, faculty, and administrators at UT-Austin, Texas A&M-College Station, or anywhere else are not better or more intelligent than at UT Rio Grande Valley,” Canales emphasized. “What they do have, that we don’t, are more opportunities and more resources than the rest of the state’s public universities, and those are some of the reasons I support increasing minority student enrollments at those two rich campuses.” Canales said constituents ask him what his vision is for UTRGV, and the state lawmaker said he shares the hopes and dreams of all South Texans. “It’s no secret. We in South Texas will not rest, we will not be discouraged, we will not be stopped in our monumental effort to transform UTRGV into a world-class institution,” Canales said. “We are going to have a law school and other professional schools, just like UT and Texas A&M, we are going to expand our School of Medicine in Edinburg and throughout the Valley, and much more. Just look how far we have come in just the past few years.”

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STC Delta Region legislation awaits action by Gov. Abbott; Rep. Canales lays out option for TSTC to expand into Hidalgo County

Featured, front row, from left: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Elsa Mayor Al Pérez; Edcouch-Elsa ISD School Board Trustee Víctor “Hugo” De la Cruz; Edcouch Mayor Pro Tem Eddy González; Edcouch Mayor Robert Schmalzried; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya. Middle row, from left: La Villa City Manager Arnie Amaro; Edcouch Alderwoman Verónica Solis; Edcouch City Manager Noé Cavazos; Edcouch Alderwoman Rina Castillo; La Villa Commissioner Rosie Pérez; and Edcouch Alderman Danny Guzmán. Back row, from left: Elsa City Manager Juan Zuniga; and La Villa Commissioner Mario López. The lawmakers and constituents posed for this portrait inside the Texas Capitol following House passage on Friday, May 8, of House Bill 382, which proposed creating a South Texas College branch campus in the Delta Region of Hidalgo County. Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY

Featured, front row, from left: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Elsa Mayor Al Pérez; Edcouch-Elsa ISD School Board Trustee Víctor “Hugo” De la Cruz; Edcouch Mayor Pro Tem Eddy González; Edcouch Mayor Robert Schmalzried; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya. Middle row, from left: La Villa City Manager Arnie Amaro; Edcouch Alderwoman Verónica Solis; Edcouch City Manager Noé Cavazos; Edcouch Alderwoman Rina Castillo; La Villa Commissioner Rosie Pérez; and Edcouch Alderman Danny Guzmán. Back row, from left: Elsa City Manager Juan Zuniga; and La Villa Commissioner Mario López. The lawmakers and constituents posed for this portrait inside the Texas Capitol following House passage on Friday, May 8, of House Bill 382, which proposed creating a South Texas College branch campus in the Delta Region of Hidalgo County.
Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY

House Bill 382, which requires the South Texas College leadership to create a plan to expand courses leading to associate degrees in Edcouch or Elsa by Fall 2019, is awaiting action by Gov. Greg Abbott after the Texas Legislature on Sunday, May 31, approved that measure, authored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville. Canales on Friday, June 19, called on Abbott to show his support for education in deep South Texas by publicly endorsing the measure with a gubernatorial signature. “The support for HB 382 is documented and widespread, and it sends a very clear message that South Texas College has a responsibility to spread its resources throughout Hidalgo County, just as other major community college systems in Texas, such as Austin Community College, which has 11 campuses in a geographic region much smaller than Hidalgo County,” said Canales. The state representative also warned STC bureaucrats to stop lobbying the governor to kill the measure, noting that state law prohibits such actions. “Chapter 556 of the Government Code clearly lays out that is a violation of the law for an institution of higher education to use tax funds to ‘influence the passage or defeat of a legislative measure’, yet in at least two instances, STC President Shirley Reed registered before a House committee in favor of a certain measure, and in the case of HB 382, she used STC resources to lobby against the STC Delta Region branch campus proposal,” said Canales. The Delta Region, which features Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, Monte Alto, and San Carlos, is connected by East Highway 107 between Edinburg and Weslaco. HB 382 states that “the board of trustees of the South Texas Community College District shall adopt and implement a plan expanding opportunity for instructional programs consisting of postsecondary courses leading to an associate degree offered in a classroom setting within the corporate city limits of the municipality of Edcouch or Elsa.” As part of his strategies to increase higher education opportunities for Hidalgo County residents – without raising property taxes – Canales laid out the option for Texas State Technical College to expand into Hidalgo County. “Texas State Technical College is the only state-funded technical college system in Texas. TSTC offers new, emerging and customized curriculum at four colleges: TSTC Harlingen, TSTC Marshall, TSTC Waco and TSTC West Texas, which has campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater,” Canales said. “Both TSTC and STC are creations of the Texas Legislature, and it is the Texas Legislature, if it so chooses, that has the final say on their issues.” Canales said the governor already has signed into law House Bill 658, authored by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, that will established a much-needed Texas State Technical College campus in Fort Bend County, one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas. The House District 40 lawmaker reminded STC officials that South Texas College began as a branch campus of TSTC-Harlingen located in McAllen. Although Weslaco has the STC Mid-Valley Campus, located about a dozen miles away from Edcouch and Elsa, that site is land-locked with limited space to expand, Canales reflected. “The Pecan Campus, which is the northernmost campus of STC, leaves huge areas of Hidalgo County with long commutes to attend classes,” Canales said. “A greater STC presence in the Delta Region would serve not only the students from the Delta Region but also from Edinburg, and would prepare STC for the future. Northern Hidalgo County is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years.” Canales emphasized that he is a very strong supporter of STC, its faculty, staff and students, crediting them with lifting tens of thousands of Hidalgo and Starr county residents into the middle-class, while their respective campuses in McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City have brought civic pride, economic development, and job creation to those respective communities. “On every issue that counted for STC, I supported this outstanding institution of higher education, not only with HB 382, which extends its reach to areas that need it, but also on HB 1887, of which I was a joint author – and for which Dr. Reed was registered ‘for’ the bill – that creates the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in the great city of Pharr,” said the House District 40 lawmaker. Requiring STC to expand in the Delta Region comes as the two-county higher education system begins spending almost $160 million for new construction, narrowly approved by voters, at its existing campuses. That funding, which was supported in the bond election by the Delta Region, includes construction in only one new location – Pharr – while STC’s existing campuses and sites in Rio Grande City, McAllen, and Weslaco will receive most of that money.

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UT System Regents asked by Rep. Canales to delay decision on using Vaqueros as athletics nickname

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Featured, from left: Dr. Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, at the International Trade and Technology Building, The University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, on Friday, May 16, 2014.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

With state legislation already filed that proposes students at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley have the right to vote on the official athletics nickname for their school, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, wants the UT System Board of Regents to delay final approval of a multi-million dollar campaign that would include promoting Vaqueros (cowboys) as the national image of the deep South Texas university and medical school. The nine-member UT System governing board – which is welcoming two new regents for its Wednesday, February 11, and Thursday, February 12 public meeting in Austin – is scheduled to take a final vote for UT-RGV’s branding campaign, which will include projecting the controversial Vaqueros mascot and athletics nickname on a national level. However, thousands of alumni and students of UT-Pan American in Edinburg, which is the largest campus of UT-RGV, have protested the loss of the Bronc as their mascot and rejected the selection of Vaqueros as the new symbol of UT-RGV, prompting Canales to file House Bill 901 on Friday, January 29. In his hand-delivered letter to the UT System Board of Regents, dated Monday, February 9, Canales explained he is asking the regents to wait on “consideration on the branding of UT-RGV in order to allow for the university’s athletic nickname to be considered in an election by the full student body. I am writing this letter in support of the hundreds of students and constituents that have contacted my office, subsequent to the selection of the UT-RGV athletic nickname in November 2014.” The Vaqueros representation will be part of a $5 million, two-year marketing and communications initiative, approved by the Board of Regents in May 2014, to launch UT-RGV in the eyes of the world as a state-of-the-art, advanced institution of American higher education. “During this selection process, the future students of UT-RGV have contacted my office repeatedly to express their outrage at not having a voice in the process,” Canales wrote to the regents. “As you might be aware, House Bill 901, if passed, would require a student election to determine the UT-RGV athletic nickname. Again, I respectfully request that you delay further consideration of the athletic logo and word marks for UT-RGV until the students have had a chance to weigh in on this important issue.” Under HB 901, the students at UT-RGV – which also has campuses or facilities in Brownsville, McAllen, Harlingen, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island – would be able to vote on the official athletics nickname, which can be different from the mascot. HB 901 would place “Broncs,” “Ocelots” and “any other options the university chooses, including nicknames nominated by students and approved by the university,” on the ballot for the election, which would have to take place by December 31, 2015. “Ocelots” is the mascot and athletics nickname for UT-Brownsville. The UT-RGV administration, led by Bailey, would be responsible for holding the election. Separate from the letter, Canales said such a student election “would be a powerful lesson in democracy.” The complete agenda packet and live coverage – and archived broadcast coverage – of the meetings is available online at http://www.utsystem.edu/board-of-regents/meetings/board-meeting-2015-02-11

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Dr. Larry Balli, health care and economic leader, honored for life’s work by Gov. Perry, Legislature

 

Every year, Texas Monthly publishes much-anticipated reviews of some of the state’s best medical, legal, and community leaders, based on a strict and independent research process that identifies Texans who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Dr. Larry Balli, one of the area’s most influential dentists, has long enjoyed a stellar reputation in Edinburg. Late last year, he was bestowed the coveted honor of "Super Dentist" by Texas Monthly, a major statewide magazine with a national following. Now comes news that his professional and civic contributions to the region have earned him praise from Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Legislature, which have approved a legislative resolution publicly recognizing him for his efforts in the Lone Star State. See lead story later in this posting. 

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As the veto period came to a close on Sunday, June 21, Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured here during a McAllen Chamber of Commerce legislative update on Wednesday, June 17, announced final approval of 59 measures that he authored or sponsored. Hinojosa’s legislative package includes bills on transportation, natural resources, criminal justice, infrastructure, and health care issues, benefitting South Texas and the entire state.  See story later in this posting. 

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SOCIALIFE News Magazine, the five-year-old creation of South Texas entrepreneur Pepe Cabeza de Vaca, featured here with Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, has been honored by the Texas House of Representatives for its vital role of promoting a positive image of the Rio Grande Valley and by helping charitable organizations in the state and nation.  The honor, contained in House Resolution 2283 filed by Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, was unanimously approved by House of Representatives on May 25. See story later in this posting. 

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The laboratories at McAllen Heart Hospital and McAllen Medical Center were accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) after site inspections on April 1 and May 1. Both laboratories received complimentary remarks by CAP inspectors on the quality of patient testing, documentation and organization. The laboratories also received  exemplary marks on their standard of laboratory practices. Featured here are some of the employees of McAllen Medical Center and McAllen Heart Hospital who are instrumental to the quality of care and services the laboratories provide. From left, first row: Dr. Feliberto Cavazos, pathologist; Sobie Treviño, system assistant director; Grace Garza, system lab director; and Robert Tamez, hospital administrator. Second row, from left: Dr. José Luis Valencia, pathologist; Norma Rodríguez; and Lester Alvarado. Third row, from left:  Denisha Niño; Aida Galván; Diana Villarreal; Janice Milford; and Jennifer Ríos. Four row, from left: Elisa Díaz; Mylene Trasmonte; Becky Flores; and Sylvia Aguinaga. Fifth row, from left: Virgil Zuñiga; Robert Hockaday; Alejo Romero; Andy Romero; and Aydee García. See story later in this posting. 

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Hundreds of future South Texas College graduates, such as these featuring during this spring’s commencement exercise, will benefit from a major grant, to be dispersed over the next three years, for expanded development education programs. On Monday, June 22, STC leaders announced that the college has been named as one of 15 national recipients – and only four in Texas – of a new grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MDC, Inc. Together the groups are giving $16.5 million to community colleges across the nation, $743,000 of which will come directly to South Texas College. “At STC we are so happy to receive the funds because it will help us institute a change to the respective course contents in our developmental programs to create learning connections for students among the three developmental education disciplines through contextualization of the curriculum,” said Dr. Ali Esmaeili, dean of developmental studies for STC. “We plan to implement a robust case management student support framework to ensure a consistent and reliable contact experience for all of our developmental students.” See story later in this posting. 

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Texas veterans denounce Texas Monthly’s attack on Rep. Flores for fighting for disabled war heroes 

Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, flanked by leaders of local veterans’ groups, on Thursday, June 11, explained why he took on powerful legislative enemies in order to get his bill passed that will provide up to a 100 percent home property tax break for thousands of disabled veterans. "We veterans, we don’t leave anyone behind, and I wasn’t about to leave these veterans behind," Flores said during a press conference organized by the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley. The group chose the Rio  Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission as the site for the news event, noting that Flores had also been the principal architect in bringing the state veterans cemetery to the Valley. Despite behind-the-scenes legislative opposition to his measure, Flores, a U.S. Army veteran, outmaneuvered his  political rivals and passed the veterans’ home tax break. Flores praised Texas veterans groups for playing a key role in the measure’s hard-fought success.  See lead story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured first on right, was rated as one of the best state lawmakers in Texas by Capitol Inside, a non-partisan web site news service has been a big hit with Republicans, Democrats and diehard independents as well since making its debut online in January 2003. At the conclusion of each legislative session, several political publications and websites name best and worst performers based on their service to their districts and the state. This year, Capitol Inside and political strategists Ted Delisi and Harold Cook compiled top ten lists, each naming Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, as one of Texas’ top ten legislators. Capitol Inside referred to Hinojosa as a veteran legislator that "just keeps getting better."  The Delisi/Cook list noted Hinojosa’s ability to secure funding for District 20 projects, including highway infrastructure, and millions of dollars for health care delivery services. From left, during a recent visit to the Capitol, are Hidalgo County Treasurer Norma G. García, Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa (no relation to the senator), Hidalgo County County Clerk Arturo Guajardo, Jr., and Hinojosa. See story on the Capitol Inside ranking later in this posting. 

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South Texas firefighters were among the dozens of area groups which visited state lawmakers at the Capitol during the recently-concluded five month regular session. On Wednesday, April 1, a Valley delegation brought their issues to Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville. Featured with Lucio, in his office, are, from left: Manuel Vargas, McAllen; Raul R. Zúñiga, Jr., San Benito; Javier Gutiérrez, McAllen; Lucio; Ramón Martínez, San Benito; Jesús Tijerina, San Benito; and Ernest Abrego, Harlingen. Later in this posting, Lucio writes about several key measures approved by the Legislature that will benefit another key constituency – military veterans.  

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The Convention Committee of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is finalizing plans for the 34th annual Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) Convention, which this year will be held at the McAllen Convention Center from July 29 through August 1.  The theme to the convention is “Growing Hispanic Business, for a Stronger Texas Economy”. Featured, front row, from left:  Sam Guzmán, TAMACC president;  Froy Garza with Congressman Henry Cuellar’s office; and Salomon Torres with Congressman Ruben Hinojosa’s office. Back row, from left: Rick Carrera, University of Texas-Pan American Small Business Development Center; Dr. John Thomas, MHCC board of directors; Mark Winchester, UTPA’s Director of the Rio South Texas Regional Procurement Technical Assistance Center; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, MHCC Pres/CEO; Letty Flores with Gov. Rick Perry’s office; Margie Treviño, Southern Minority Supplier Development Council; and María Juárez, UTPA Director of the Small Business Development Center. See story later in this posting. 

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce will host a Power Punch @ Lunch on Wednesday, June 24 at the Depot, located at 602 W. University Drive, sponsored by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR). The business community of Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley are invited to attend the free networking luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Persons who attend are being asked to bring their business cards to distribute during the chamber’s most notable social-networking luncheon, which includes food, door prizes and fun. Area residents interested in attending should RSVP by calling 956/383-4974. Featured, from left: Joanna Álvarez, DHR Assistant Director for Marketing; McAllen City Commissioner Jim Darling, who serves as DHR’s legal counsel; Mario Lizcano, DHR Director for Marketing; Marissa Castañeda, DHR’s Chief Operations Officer; and Frank Lara, Membership Director, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.  

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