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Sylvia Handy pleads guilty to harboring conspiracy, false statement in tax return, then resigns as Hidalgo County Commissioner

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured right, has announced dates for the 2010 Texas Hurricane Conference, sponsored by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The conference, scheduled for May 17-20 in McAllen, will offer attendees a variety of resources to prepare and coordinate responses to catastrophic storms. Conference invitees will include representatives from the emergency management community, first responders, and law enforcement agencies from coastal communities and inland sheltering communities. Featured with the South Texas senator in this photograph during a separate event is Raúl Óscar Gómez, one of the principal news correspondents for Noticias 40, the Telemundo affiliate in the Rio Grande Valley. See story later in this posting

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Farouk Shami, a classic symbol of the American Success Story, on Tuesday, March 2, praised the people of Texas for making and keeping the Lone Star State “the standard of excellence, the hope for the future for America, and the envy of the world.” Shami, who came to the United States 44 years ago with $71 in his pocket and became a successful Houston businessman and philanthropist, exploded onto the political scene late last year with his vision for Texas and as a major candidate for governor. His pledge to create 100,000 new jobs in Texas or resign as governor, his plans to make Texas a world-class leader in solar power and wind power, his promise to not take campaign contributions from wealthy special interest groups, and his vow to “declare war on poverty” in the state have established great expectations from millions of Texans. He said he fully expects his ideas to become reality because they are based on solid economic strategies, 21st century technology and science, high ethical standards, and compassionate democratic ideals.  Above all, Shami said it is the people of Texas who are going to help see those plans come to fruition. “I knew Texas is great, but after campaigning throughout the state and meeting thousands of people from all walks of life, I am humbled by the ideas and achievements of countless fellow Texans,” said Shami. “That’s why, although I wasn’t born in Texas, I got here at fast as I could. The people of Texas are amazing.”  Shami is featured here in El Paso during the 2010 National Latino Congreso Convention held in January in El Paso with Hidalgo County and Texas Democratic leaders. From left: Nelva Sosa-Slagle; Juan Maldonado; Farouk Shami; Alan Fizman; Giovanna De León; and Lydia Camarillo, vice president for the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. See story later in this posting.

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Texas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White, the former mayor of Houston – who took 60 percent of the vote in Hidalgo County on Tuesday, March 2 on his way to a statewide nomination victory – is calling on all Democrats to rally around him and the rest of the party ticket in its November election battles against Gov. Rick Perry and Perry’s fellow Republican nominees for other statewide offices. “Today Texans sent a message to the entrenched interests in Austin: Texans are ready for a new governor,” White said at his victory celebration that evening in Houston. “We invite those who supported other candidates to join our team, which consists of citizens from all backgrounds and both parties. We are committed to honest, competent, decentralized and accountable government. We believe that more unites than divides Texans,” White said. The former Houston mayor is featured here, on Tuesday, January 5, campaigning before staff members of the Hidalgo County District Clerk’s Office in the Hidalgo County Courthouse. See story on White’s victory remarks later in this posting.

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Gov. Rick Perry, featured here on Tuesday, January 5 at the University of Texas-Pan American, is reportedly ventured out from the traditional outlets used to appeal to voters in his successful re-election bid, according to WiredPRNews.com. As reported by the Dallas Morning News, Perry  utilized social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to garner campaign support and reach voters. Perry was quoted by the Dallas Morning News as stating of his technological based campaign efforts, “It’s one of the most diverse, one of the most focused, and one of the most effective in Texas history.” Perry’s rivals in the recently-concluded Republican Party primary race – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Debra Medina – also noticeably utilized social media in their campaigns. Mari Woodlief, president of Dallas-based Allyn Media is further quoted in the report as stating of the trends in modern political campaigns: “Campaigns are evolving just like people and technology… you have to go where the people are, and more and more that’s become the Internet.” Featured with Perry during the Republican governor’s visit to the local university, where he announced several million dollar grants, were, from left, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and UTPA President Robert Nelsen.

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Nearly 200 family members, friends, faculty, staff and students came together Friday, February 19, at the University of Texas-Pan American to celebrate the opening of the “Pillars of Success” exhibition, which features the photos and the success stories of five distinguished alumni that will be on display in the university’s Visitors Center for the next two years. Dr. John Edwards, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, said the Visitors Center has housed 11 exhibits since it opened in 2002 and has had more than 200,000 visitors, including thousands of Rio Grande Valley students. “We keep this display up for a period of two years because we want our visitors and students to know what this university is producing – outstanding graduates,” he said. “These Pillars of Success stand as role models for paths we want our students to follow.” See story later in this posting.

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In just its third year of operation, South Texas College’s Mid-Valley Campus Child Development Center in Weslaco has earned accreditation from the National Accreditation Commission for Early Care and Education Programs (NAC). STC’s center is the only child care facility in the Rio Grande Valley to have earned this prestigious accreditation. The center works to expand its college-going culture to include even its littlest graduates, featured in this photograph. See story later in this posting.

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Bless Me Ultima is the newest play being presented by the Pharr Literacy Project and Cultural Arts Center at the Historic Texas Theatre in Pharr, premiering March 26 at 7:30 pm. The play is based on Rudolfo Anaya’s best selling novel of the same title. With 22 local actors rehearsing the play since February, it promises to be a spectacular show. Bless Me Ultima is a coming of age story about a young boy’s loss of innocence and approach to maturity. But it also deals with tradition, and education, faith and doubt, and good and evil. The play with adult and children actors is set in post world war 2 in the mountains of beautiful New Mexico. Pedro García is the director and Elva Michal is the producer. Among some of the actors are Armandina Sesin as Ultima/La Grande, Alex Gelman as the author, and young Alejandro Arango as Antonio. Performances will be held at the Historic Texas Theatre, 115 E. Park Street in Pharr, on: March 26 at 7:30 p.m.; March 28 at 2:30 p.m.; April 9 & 10 at 7:30 p.m.; and April 11 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are only $6 and are currently on sale by calling The Pharr Literacy Project & Cultural Arts Center at 956/783-7746. Featured, from left, during a recent rehearsal in the Pharr Literacy Project Building, are: Víctor Alanis, Allyson Champion, Lizzie Cuellar and Alejandro Arango .

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Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-San Benito, attended a hard hat tour of the Representative Jim Solis and Colonel H William “Bill” Card Jr. Outpatient Clinic on Wednesday, February 24.  That newly-named outpatient clinic, which is operated by the South Texas Health Care System in Harlingen, was named in the two men’s honor in recognition of their many contributions to Harlingen. The name change was authorized by legislation by the Lucios which was approved by the Texas Legislature last spring. Featured, from left: Rep. Lucio, III; Bill Card; Sonia Hernández-Keeble, the director of the Rio Grande State Center, which operates the Harlingen clinic; and Sen. Lucio.

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Sergio Muñoz, Jr. joins area veterans in rallying support for Proposition 8

Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, joined members of the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley during the Tuesday, October 6, regular meeting of the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court to continue rallying support for passage of Proposition 8.  Proposition 8, which is one of 11 constitutional amendments set for a statewide vote on Tuesday, November 3, would be “a direct mandate to the state government that it will work with the feds in providing whatever it takes to bring a VA Hospital down here,” said Flores, featured here, middle row, second from right. Two days later, in a related development, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wrote President Obama, reminding the president of Obama’s promise to help bring a VA Hospital to deep South Texas.”I was very pleased that, as a member of the Senate in 2008, you cosponsored the South Texas Veterans Access to Care Act, which I had introduced to bring desperately needed inpatient medical facilities to the Rio Grande Valley,” Cornyn noted to Obama. “The Federal Government still fails to fully recognize the efforts and sacrifices of these brave Americans in defense of our country, despite repeated requests to the VA for help and recent legislative efforts on this issue.”  In addition to Flores, elected county leaders also showcased in this group portrait with area veterans include, back row, from left: Precinct 4 Commissioner Óscar L. Garza, Jr.; Precinct 3 Commissioner Joe M. Flores; County Judge Salinas; and Precinct 3 Héctor “Tito” Palacios. See story later in this posting.

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Tickets remain on sale for $90 per person through Friday, October 16, for the Museum of South Texas History’s ¡Fandango! – Saluting the Flags of Texas, which will be held on Saturday, October 24. ¡Fandango! is MOSTHistory’s annual FUNdraising event, filled with fast-paced auction fun, good food, and great company. Organizing this year’s event are Amy Johnson of McAllen and Shelley Richards of Edinburg. Among the committee members for ¡Fandango! are, from left: Josie Cappadona of Linn; Kathe Tavarez of McAllen; Amy Johnson of McAllen; Carola Chapa of San Manuel; and Patty Garza of Edinburg. More information is available by calling Lynne Beeching at 956/383-6911. See story later in this posting.

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Leaders with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce have announced that the local organization will be hosting a Winter Texan Welcome and Small Business Expo on Thursday, November 5.  The local chamber recognizes that Winter Texans are vital to the city’s economy. Live music by “It’s Miller Time”, food, door prizes and drinks will be available to Winter Texans for only $3 per tickets, which may be purchased in advance through local RV parks and at the chamber headquarters. The Welcome will take place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Edinburg Activity Center, located on 123 West Palm Drive. Exhibitors are encouraged to sign up to hand out literature, coupons, discounts, and talk to Winter Texans one-on-one. For a $25 fee for chamber members, and $50 for future chamber members, local business owners would be provided a presence at the event, including an eight-foot table and two chairs, to promote their skills and services. More information on the event or reserving exhibition space is available by contacting the chamber at 956/383-4974 or at http://www.edinburg.com. Chamber staff members promoting the Winter Texan Welcome and Small Business Expo are, standing, from left: Evana Vleck, marketing director; Letty González, president; and Crystal Cavazos, tourism assistant. Seated are Imelda Rodríguez, tourism director, and Martín Rivas, membership director.

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Former Rep. Cullen R. Looney, D-Edinburg, a local attorney, and Estella Lane Treviño, a former justice of the peace and longtime executive director of the Edinburg Housing Authority, have been named Man and Woman of the Year by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. The announcement came on Saturday, October 3, during the local organization’s Annual Installation Banquet, held at the Social Steak House and Club. The event was also held to recognize Cynthia Bocanegra and Lee Castro as incoming chairwoman and outgoing chairman for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. See story later in this posting.

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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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Texas Monthly ignores Valley lawmakers’ successes, again puts Hispanics in negative light, says Rep. Flores

The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit appears to have caused some confusion among members of the media and news consumers, according to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. That organization is encouraging news organizations to avoid any confusion over Sotomayor’s ethnic background. Her Puerto Rican parents are not immigrants, as some journalists have reported, since island-born residents are U.S. citizens, conferred by an act of Congress in 1917. "People who move to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico are no more immigrants than those who move from Nebraska to New York," said Iván Román, NAHJ’s executive director. "Her nomination to replace Justice David H. Souter represents the possibility of the first Latino sitting on the nation’s highest court. As the debate over her qualifications develops, NAHJ would encourage the highest form of discourse." Sotomayor, 54, is featured here on May 26 with President Obama and Vice President Biden following her nomination by the president to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Congressman Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, featured here, third from right, during an unrelated photograph with constituents and then-President Bush, on officially launched the Congressional Media Fairness Caucus (MFC) to counter what he says is media bias. The purpose of the MFC is not to censor or condemn, but to encourage the media to adhere to the highest standards of reporting and to provide the American people with the facts, balanced stories and fair coverage of the news, Smith contended. A study by the nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs found that network news programs gave President Obama more than three times the coverage that they gave former President George W. Bush early in his presidency, Smith noted. See related story later in this posting.

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Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, featured here, front row, second from left, with fellow members who first came into the Texas Legislature with him about six-and-a-half years ago, on Friday, June 5, declared that legislation authorizing the establishment of a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley was his and the region’s number one legislative priority. "The Rio Grande Valley has been long underserved in access to healthcare and health care providers," said Peña. "The establishment of a medical school and health science center will not only serve to bridge that gap but it has the power to transform our economy. I applaud Sen. Eddie Lucio for his leadership, our legislative delegation and community and business leaders for all their efforts. While we can relish this achievement we have a lot of important work ahead to ensure that the facility is fully funded and world-class." See story later in this posting.

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The employees of South Texas College have been recognized by the United Way of South Texas for being the most charitable among all staffs at state agencies across the Rio Grande Valley, including outperforming other major universities and state offices. STC employees pledged more than $40,000 through the 2008 State Employees Charitable Campaign (SECC), administered by the United Way of South Texas. The college merited the SECC Lone Star Award for its effort. Featured, representing STC and UWST, are, from left, front: Gloria Ann Hernández, community relations public sector campaign for UWST; Thelma Garza, UWST president; and Diana Peña, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services for STC. Back row, from left: Dr. Shirley A. Reed, president of STC; Jeff Heavin, instructor, STC Human Resources Specialist Program; and Shirley Ingram, Director of Human Resources for STC. See story later in this posting.

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