Today marks the close of Red Ribbon Week. My thanks and appreciation to the various schools who invited me or who participated in these annual activities. I will continue working on completing our local drug treatment facility and advocating for families fighting to be drug free.
Appropriately enough I have been appointed to the Addiction Studies Program for the States. This is a program directed by Wake Forest National School of Medicine and the National Families in Action Treatment Research Institute. I am being directed to New Orleans immediately after the election. My staff will be available in both our Austin and district offices.
Sadly, I may miss out on some of the post-election spin and theatrical manipulations involving the Speaker's race. The first day of pre-filing of legislation will also commence the day after election day. I am a phone call away.
Oct 31, 2008
Oct 30, 2008
It is that time again. The election is upon us and the biggest two questions I am repeatedly asked is who is going to win and who is going to be the Speaker of the House in the 81st Legislative Session. I have a good sense of most of the Texas House races, although a hand full could still break in either direction. I am comfortable in saying that the most likely result of Tuesday's election will be a two or three member pick up for the Democrats in the Texas House. Out of respect for my colleagues I will for the moment refrain from identifying individual races. I do think however that a Democratic wave has Republicans concerned about their majority status in the future of Texas politics. The city of Houston and the Harris County Courthouse is likely to follow the trend initiated in Dallas. This plus significant gains on the federal level and a pick up in the Texas House is a clear indication of a larger trend towards a more moderate Texas political landscape.
It is still possible that the political wave sweeping Texas could result in a larger pick up for Democrats but at the present time a two to three member pick up will be the most likely result. Although a 75-75 member partisan split could result in an interesting political free for all, the victor in the Speaker's race should be immediately apparent within moments of the receipt of the last return.
This is a banner year for Democrats. Not only will we win the White House, have significant gains in Congress but it is very evident to me that we should pick up seats in the Texas House of Representatives.
Oct 24, 2008
Red Ribbon Week begins a series of visits to local schools to spread the message against drugs and alcohol abuse. I was warmly invited to the PSJA School District once again to address young children on the dangers of drugs and their effects on our community.
In the next legislative session, which begins in January, we should expect a number of legislative attempts to control drugs, drug violence and drug gangs along the border. I expect to have a considerable role in that effort.
Being tough on crime should also go hand in hand with being smart on crime, such as providing tools of recovery for our families. We have worked long and hard to bring a drug treatment center to the Rio Grande Valley. Although I am somewhat disappointed in the poor planning by the County of Hidalgo for this important center, I still have hope that we may one day have a fully viable and functional drug treatment center.
During this very special week initiated because of the death of a brave and dedicated law enforcement officer, the highest tribute this community can give in response to the countless who have tirelessly fought against drugs and drug violence is to finish the job on the drug treatment center.
Oct 21, 2008
Oct 20, 2008
The lines are long outside the Hidalgo County Courthouse in this 1913 photo. Today, almost a hundred years later, the lines are equally long as elections got off to a good start outside the Hidalgo County courthouse.
I voted early this morning. Unusually long lines confronted me and the other voters on this first day of this historic election. Thereafter I joined in the traditional early vote rally at Ramon Garcia office. He always puts on a good event. Ramon invited me to share a few words with the audience. I joined County Judge Ramon Garcia, Veronica Gonzales, Dori Contreras, Linda Yañez, and Hidalgo County Democratic Chair Dolly Elizondo in encouraging local citizens to participate.
I made it a point to return to the election polling site and asked how the voting was going. They responded with a, "it's heavy, it's heavy". Good news for local Democrats.
Oct 18, 2008
It was only yesterday that he attended a much smaller rally at UTPA in our little town of Edinburg. How things have changed.
This journey finds a new beginning on election day. Be a part of history. Exercise your right to vote beginning Monday.
UPDATE: It looks like Colin Powell has made a decision in this presidential race.
Oct 17, 2008
On Saturday, October 18th, in commemoration and recognition of the 100 year anniversary of the arrival of Hidalgo County's court records and subsequent founding of the county seat in present day Edinburg, our office will dedicate and plant a seedling from one of our country's most historic trees in the Hidalgo County Courthouse Square.
The tree is a southern live oak grown from an acorn hand-selected from the historic Treaty Oak in Austin, Texas. Treaty Oak is believed to be more than 500 years old and is the lone survivor of the "Council Oaks" a grove of 14 trees that served as a revered meeting place for Apache and Comanche tribes of Central Texas. The tree is said to have shaded Stephen F. Austin, the Father of Texas, as he signed the first boundary treaty with local Native American tribes in the 1830's. Folklore also holds that Sam Houston rested beneath the Treaty Oak after his expulsion from the governor's office at the start of Texas' involvement in the American Civil War. In 1989, the tree was deliberately poisoned with a powerful herbicide strong enough to kill 100 trees. The tree survived and the American Forestry Association inducted the Treaty Oak into its Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C.
The Treaty Oak has long been a symbol of strength and permanence. Over this last week we have seen those same characteristics expressed in the people of our community. In celebrating Edinburg's centennial we have retold a city's rich and vibrant history. As we commemorate the founding of the county seat in Edinburg these 100 years ago it is appropriate to reflect upon our past and with a clear vision begin our plans for the future. These grounds and this tree will witness our next courthouse and the many generations that follow.
We will be joined by Hidalgo County, the City of Edinburg, the Edinburg Environment Advisory Board, the Sierra Club, and other various community and school organizations. The tree will be planted directly across from the Museum of South Texas History on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. The public is invited to attend.
Update: We planted the tree.
Oct 16, 2008
Oiram Alaniz joined me at my law office and we thereafter traveled to the courthouse were we visited with judges and lawyers in Oiram's pursuit to be a lawyer.
We are again participating in National Disability Mentoring Day (NDMD). Mentoring Day was originally sponsored by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), began in 1999 as part of a White House effort to increase the profile of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, celebrated every October. It is a national partnership between the AAPD and the US Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy.
NDMD was patterned after other school-to-work activities such as the National Groundhog Job Shadow day, and began with just three-dozen student participants, mostly in Washington, DC. In 2000, NDMD began to take root in communities across the nation.
It was a great experience and we thank the City of McAllen for their attention to this important excercise. To learn more about NDMD on a national level, visit http://www.dmd-aapd.org.
Happy Birthday to Dear Old Dad. The old man has done a lot of things. I've written some of them down so that I can remember them:
Lionel Aron Peña:
• Born October 16, 1935 in Elsa (Engelman Gardens)
o Parents: Baltazar Peña, and Guadalupe Perez (Peña)
o Sister: Irma Idalia Peña (died at 2, buried at Anahuac cemetery), Maria Alberta
o Brothers: Baltazar Romeo, Heraldo Heberto, Rolando (died at age 3, buried Anahuac cemetery ), Manuel Rolando, Manuel Roel
o 6 Children
Lionel Aron Peña, Jr.
John Eric Peña
Louis Dominic Peña
o 25 Grandchildren
o 5 Great-Grandchildren
o Has been married since August 22, 1958 (August 22, 2008 was Golden Anniversary)
• Hobbies: tennis, theatre arts, travel, cycling
• Edcouch-Elsa High School
o Graduated 1954
o Student Council President
• Joined National Guard in 1953
o Rose to rank of Sergeant
o Served in tank company and 36 regiment, headquarters company Austin TX
• University of Texas Pan-American (UTPA)
o Graduated 1957 with honors
o President of Pre-Law Society
• University of Texas Law School
o Moot Court Competition in Law School
o John Hay Whitney fellow 2nd year Fellowship
o When in law school, lived at 1601 Neches (now Centennial Park)
• After law school, moved to Edinburg and joined Rankin, Kilgore, Cherry, and Martinez
• Started Peña and Leopold in 1962, which eventually became Peña, McDonald, Prestia, and Ornelas.
• Was attorney for Edinburg Hospital from 1970-90
• In 1972, became Edinburg City Attorney for 15 years
• In 1975, became Edinburg Consolidated School District Attorney for 15 years
• Co-Step board member from 1975-Today
• President of Lion's club (40 yrs as member)
• Past President for Edinburg Jaycee's (1961)
• Edinburg City Comm. (1963)
• Edinburg Chamber of Commerce President (1976)
• Served 6 years as Mayor Protem (1965)
• President of Corpus Christi Diocesan Council of Catholic Men (1965-67)
Oct 14, 2008
I love images of the Old Hidalgo County courthouse in Edinburg. Of all the courthouses in the history of Hidalgo County (founded 1837) it was by far the most beautiful.
The first was constructed in 1837 in present day Hidalgo. The second was a tent(s) rapidly constructed on October 13 and 14, 1908 as an armed wagon train, filled with court records taken from the first courthouse, approached undeveloped open land in present day Edinburg. The third built in 1908 was a two story wooden building that served as a temporary courthouse. The fourth courthouse, shown here in the Robert Runyon photo, stood in the center of Edinburg's main plaza from 1910 to 1954, when the present day fifth courthouse was constructed.
Moments ago, the midnight hour passed and October 14 began. This marks the actual 100 year anniversary of the early morning arrival of the court records to their present location in Edinburg. On that day immediate action was taken to construct a permanent courthouse that would protect the records of a growing county.
It is an opportune time as any to publicly articulate what I have been privately pondering. The growth of modern Hidalgo County and the current state (crowded and deteriorating) of the present courthouse demand that our community and all its leaders begin planning the construction of a new courthouse. In private I have already initiated the discussion. Additionally I have instructed my staff to begin the necessary research to see if our office might play a role in coming legislative sessions if eventual construction is considered. Any such undertaking will take a total community effort from all levels of government. Obviously, costs will be at the forefront of our discussion. Please join the discussion and share your thoughts with me or my office in coming days. They will be of great value in reaching a consensus on the timeliness and viability of such a project.
Oct 12, 2008
I just returned from another Valley Interfaith Convention accountability session. This convention marked their 25 year anniversary and so many observers have done their own accounting of the organization. Most people would likely be of the opinion that they have accomplished much in those 25 years. I kid with the sisters (of the religious order) that I survived another year. Here is a story about Valley Interfaith and their convention. I couldn't help but notice Paul Burka in the audience. I am interested to hear his take of the convention.
Here are The Monitor's observations on the convention and here are Paul's.
Oct 11, 2008
It was an end to the "Old American West " and the beginning of the modern era when a team of armed cowboys on horseback drove their mule and ox carts into an empty patch of land that would become Edinburg. A side note to history exemplifying the changing of an era is found in the little known tidbit that founders John Closner and William F. Sprague followed the wagon trail by automobile. Not the way you want a bold midnight historical event to be remembered.
I have always found a sadness in the passing of the old west. I'm not sure what it is. Perhaps it is the nostalgia for the loss of a romanticized way of life. That loss was never more clearly communicated than it was in the movie classic, "Once Upon A Time In The West ". Here is a haunting tribute to our little town, from that movie, as I would like to see it on October 14, 2008 (the 100 year anniversary of the day the wagon train arrived).
Italians, Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone capture that sense of loss of that era's passing in their movie and soundtrack. The video found here is that of Carla Maffioletti who sings Once Upon a Time in the West in the City of Cortona, Tuscany.
Before we turn the page on a new chapter for our town let us take a moment to pay tribute and reflect on our history and the great distance we have traveled.
The Daughters of the American Revolution hosted a genealogy session on tracing your family tree at the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library as part of the Centennial event. I stopped in with my grand daughter and found it informative and a great resource for history lovers.
Today I am attending the 2008 Onam Festival at the University of Texas Pan American. This is an event organized by the Malayalee Association of the Rio Grande Valley.
Intrestingly enough this new diversity to our community is a foretelling of the next 100 years in the larger community including the City of Edinburg. I have come to learn that the Malayalee Association describes itself as follows:
"The Malayalee Association of the Rio Grande Valley is a socio-cultural association of the people of Indian descent in the Valley who are bound by common threads of culture, language and other social values. The main objectives of the association are to bring out the best of the community, enhance the the inherent rich traditions and values and pass it on to future generations. The association aims at promoting interfaith and interethnic understanding, family values, cultural understanding and make positve and substantial contributions to the society around. The association strives to enrich the social and cultural life of all its members and impact the people around. This association is a non-profit organization registered in Texas. Currently there are around 120 families here in the Valley and the communuty is growing fast."
I was pleasantly surprised when the President of the Indian Association, Hari Namboodiri, informed me that the organization was honoring me a community service award. As my son would say - sweet.
A who's who of the organization includes: Antony Mathew, Ranadeev Chellikkattil, Binoo George, Prof. John Abraham, Prof. Mani Skaria and Prof. Rajeev Nambiar.
UPDATE: Very nice event. I learned a lot. My thanks for the community service award.
Oct 10, 2008
Today the Edinburg Centennial Committee held a ceremony at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Depot culminating a week long celebration. Today's date marks the chosen anniversary date for the Edinburg Centennial. A later historical event, the coming of the railroad to Edinburg, was recreated on the raildroad tracks adjacent to the Edinburg Depot. The photo above shows members of the Centennial Committee along with community leaders.
Shown in the photo: J.J. Rodriguez, Maggie Kent, Councilman Gene Espinoza, Councilwoman Alma Garza, Cynthia Bocanegra, Mayor Joe Ochoa, Gus Casas, Rep. Aaron Peña, Cris Torres, Elva Jackson Garza, Letty Gonzalez, Flo Prater and Johnny Rodriguez.
Just like the 1927 photo of the Missouri Pacific Railroad coming to Edinburg, our train today busted through a banner proclaiming the Centennial.
Afterwards, Mayor Ochoa and myself climbed aboard the train for photos.
The San Antonio, Chapin and Rio Grande Railway (Chapin was later dropped from the name) connected the new county seat to the Valley's main rail line, the St. Louis, Brownsville, and Mexico Railway, at San Juan. Shown here, circa 1910, is the locomotive nicknamed "Flossie". Dick Huston, with the oil can, was the chief engineer. The photo may have been taken at the Chapin depot on what is now East University in Edinburg.
Oct 9, 2008
Look closely at the double vaulted entry to the Edinburg Depot where 100 years of history is about to be celebrated. Why are their two ticket entries into the train depot? It is a question I always asked myself growing up as a young child in Edinburg. I played basketball in the empty abandoned building in the 1960's but never new the answer until fairly recently.
Because of segregation one entry way was for whites and the other was for blacks. Eight years or so ago I learned this troubling history that forced another class of Americans in my town to be treated in a disrespectful and degrading manner. When the Edinburg train depot was undergoing remodeling I donated funds for crafting a duplicate of the ticket door where "coloreds" were forced to buy their train tickets. Rather than let the original door be thrown away I saved the door in my attic until an organization or individual came along who appreciated the historic and symbolic power of the door.
In a casual conversation with the executive director of the Museum of South Texas History she learned that I had the original door and asked if I would donate it to the museum. This past weekend I turned the door over to the museum so that this part of our history could be told. An appropriate gift for the city's centennial I think. The greater power however is the lesson of history that I hope will be communicated in our community for years to come, that we must guard against the inhumanity of man towards others.
On Friday, October 10, hundreds will gather at the old west side train depot in the City of Edinburg to once again commemorate our city's history. What is now the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce will be the site for speeches and celebration as a specific and important day in our history is recreated. "Southern Pacific Day" back on January 11, 1927 welcomed the Southern Pacific Railroad to the community. As it was with many towns visited by the railroad in those times, it marked a milestone that would put Edinburg on the map and provide hope for a growing community. A train will make a special appearance tomorrow to recreate the historic event depicted in the picture.
Many may fail to note that October 10 actually marks the day of a controversial election which thrust Edinburg into the position as the capitol of Hidalgo County. It was immediately after that 422 to 90 election that mule and ox carts were loaded with records (from the previous court house) to reach the yet uncleared and undeveloped land. Shortly after midnight on the morning of October 14, 1908 the caravan reached what is now Edinburg. As was the celebratory custom of that era in Texas and Norther Mexico (as it remains in some parts today) their arrival was marked with heavy gun fire into the air. Of specific interest to my personal family history was the involvement in the caravan by my great grandfather Jose Roman Alamia. The local paper picked up on that bit of history.
Out of respect I plan to attend tomorrow's event. I am not expecting gun fire but I am expecting a darn good time. I would invite all to come and participate in the celebration.
Oct 8, 2008
Today the Edinburg School District did their part in celebrating the Edinburg Centennial. Television personality, Dina Herrera Garza, led today's celebratory event. Our host was the superintendent of schools, Gilberto Garza, Jr. I joined a small group of local dignitaries in congratulating our school district's involvement in the history of Edinburg.
A "Did You Know" presentation of historical facts was given by the high school student councils' Presidents. April Gomez from Edinburg High School, Samantha Valdez from Edinburg North High School, and Eduardo Gonzalez from Johnny Economedes High School gave the audience a historical presentation on our community's history.
We also heard the finalists from the Edinburg Centennial 5th Grade Essay Contest. The finalists included: Brianna C. McCormick, Freddy Gonzalez Elementary (honorable mention); Jean Almonte, Guerra Elementary (honorable mention); Brooke Baus, Canterbury Elementary (1st place); Julissa Alexandra Mendoza (2nd place), Esparza Elementary and Kiana Ramirez, Travis Elementary (3rd place).
Also shown in the above picture with the finalists is: State Rep. Aaron Peña, Paul Rodriguez, Patricia Galindo, Shirley Clancey, School Board President Omar Palacios and Mayor Joe Ochoa.
Congressman Ruben Hinojosa joined myself and the Edinburg City Council for the presentation of a series of proclamations recognizing the Edinburg Centennial. Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa held a small ceremony before the beginning of the first regular session of the City Council in the new city hall. Congressman Hinojosa presented a proclamation from our federal government. I followed with a similar proclamation from the state. We both presented flags that flew over our respected governments. The city later passed a proclamation.
The city hall is beautiful and certainly a far cry from the old city hall where my father served as city commissioner. I was pleased that he joined me at our new city hall. In my opening presentation I made a vague reference to my father and his generation when I remarked that our generation of leaders owed much to the giants that came before us.
Oct 7, 2008
Took a short walk over to the new city hall that the city appropriately opened on their centennial year. I very much like the location, not only because it is a block away from my office, but because it incorporates the old Edinburg College. Tuesday, city and community leaders will come forward to participate in the maiden session of the city council in the new building.
The old city hall which sits at the corner of 10th and McIntyre will be used by the Edinburg Fire Department. My father, the original Aaron Peña, informs me that when he was a city commissioner in the early 70's they held meetings at what is now the Museum of South Texas History's old jail building.
If you are from the community come and be a part of this historic event.
The Boys & Girls Club located in the community of San Carlos recently partnered with the Food Bank of the RGV and the Ronald McDonald's House of Charities to establish the Kids Cafe Program.
Kids Cafe aims to provide free dinners to children who might otherwise go to bed hungry. The Kids Cafe will be offered to club members on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The only requirement to participate in the Kids Cafe program is that diners must be 18 years old or younger. The cafe can handle up to 200 children, but nobody will be turned away. For more information on the Kids Cafe Program or other programs offered by the Boys & Girls Club of Edinburg RGV, please contact (956)383-2582.
As The Monitor chronicled, the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department did their part in the week long centennial celebration for the City of Edinburg. There were hundreds of people in attendance who enjoyed free hotdogs, ice cream and as much cake as their hearts desired. Here are photos of the largest cake I have ever seen. You will notice the cake goes around the entire table. A young firemen climbed a ladder to take the photo below.
It was also the beginning of fire prevention week and law enforcement came out to participate in the event by taking the opportunity to advocate for public safety. They also autographed posters that we had specially made with an Edinburg fire truck memorializing the centennial.
The Monitor newspaper made note of the colorful history of our county and the creation of Edinburg. It also made note of the special family tie that I have to this event. Great grandfather Alamia would be proud to know that we continue to endure in this community 100 years after the bold midnight adventure that began our city. The future is ours and the history that will be remembered in a hundred years will be determined by our life stories. Let's make it a good one.
Oct 6, 2008
Museum of South Texas History Executive Director Shan Rankin leads the Edinburg Centennial kickoff ceremony with the lighting of the birthday cake. From left to right are the Centennial cheerleaders, Mayor Joe Ochoa, MOSTH's Melissa Tijerina, Rep. Aaron Peña, City Commissioner Alma Garza and City Commissioner Noe Garza.
Oct 5, 2008
The week long celebration of the 100 year birthday of the City of Edinburg begins today at 1 p.m. with a kick-off at the Museum of South Texas History on the Hidago County Square in Edinburg. The Museum will hold a fun filled afternoon filled with great food, presentations on the city’s history, trivia games, and live music. Admission is free. The Will Looney Legacy Park will be open to the public for the first time today.
As we highlighted before, the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department Museum located on McIntyre and 10th street will also be open to the public from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm with free admission.
I hope to see you there.
Oct 1, 2008
The city of Edinburg is celebrating its 100 year anniversary with community wide events and celebrations planned for the week of October 5-11. During the same time the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department will be promoting National Fire Prevention Week, with attention focused on fire safety and preventing home fires. My office acknowledged the contributions of the fire department to our city's past, present and future by creating a special commemorative centennial poster featuring an image of an Edinburg fire truck taken at last year's fire prevention week activities. We presented the framed poster to Chief Shawn Snyder and other firefighters at the city's downtown firehouse.
We have always been very proud of the men and women that protect our community by serving in one of the best volunteer fire departments in the state. Our city has such a wonderful history and our fire department has stood tall in service and support but we must note the important work they continue to do.
On October 6 the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department will be hosting its "2008 Fire Prevention Caravan and Open House" at Edinburg Municipal Park. The fire department will lead a caravan at 5:45 pm from Jackson and University to the park. The open house begins at 7:00 pm. At the park there will be free refreshments and hotdogs with special appearances by Smokey the Bear, Sparky the Dog, state and local law enforcement, and various Edinburg CISD bands providing entertainment. There will also be educational activities for adults and children alike. Families are encouraged to attend.
The fire department joins our museum, our library, our chamber of commerce and various other city and community groups in celebrating Edinburg's history. I encourage all our citizens to come out and participate in the weeklong festivities.
The Museum of South Texas History will kick off the city's centennial salute on October 5th with a day of food, fun, live music and a historical program about the city's history. The Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department Museum located on McIntyre and 10th street will also be open to the public from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm with free admission. Other planned activities throughout the week include a reception at 5:00 pm at the new City Hall on Tuesday, October 7th and the Sekula Memorial Library will host a poetry reading at 6:00 pm on Thursday, October 9th. The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce will feature a special reenactment ribbon cutting at the Edinburg Depot with refreshments, speakers and other activities on Friday, October 10th beginning at 10:00 am.
Please call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974 for more information about planned festivities.