Nov 30, 2009

Remembering "Uncle" Bill Summers

It is hard to believe that our friend is gone. May God bless the best ambassador the Valley and Northern Mexico ever had - Bill Summers. Here are some photos I picked up over the years.

The San Antonio Express carries the story regarding the top three photos at the Bill Summers Highway dedication.

The Valley legislative delegation was congratulated for a successful session. Here led by Bill Summers of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership as we sing our "Rio Grande Valley Home."

God bless you Bill. Thanks for the leadership and the memories.

Nov 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Turkey and Football

A day to forget our anxieties of daily live and to be grateful for our abundance with family. It is fitting that we give thanks and remember the words said by C.S. Lewis:

Anxiety is a pain which we must ask God to heal but also a weakness we must ask Him to pardon for He's told us to take no care for the morrow.

Today I gather with family at the house of my daughter (Adrienne) and son-in-law's (Jimmy). Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Nov 25, 2009

Nov 22, 2009

Congressman Patrick Kennedy Denied Communion Because of Pro-Choice Stance

It's hard not to see the beauty in the Villanova University statue. It is only when the statue is seen through the prism of the abortion debate does one's view of it change.

The abortion debate continues in today's headlines as we read in The New York Times that Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat has been informed by a Roman Catholic bishop of his community to refrain from receiving communion because of the congressman’s stance on abortion.

Rep. Kennedy said that Bishop Thomas J. Tobin instructed him not to take communion and that the diocesan priests will not to give him communion.

Bishop Tobin issued his instructions to Rep. Kennedy privately in a letter dated February 21, 2007:

“In light of the Church’s clear teaching, and your consistent actions,” the letter said, “I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.”

The escalation of this dispute between the Bishop and Kennedy came after the lawmaker criticized the nation’s Catholic bishops for threatening to oppose an overhaul of the health care system unless it tightened restrictions on publicly financed abortion.

The news continues the issue of the relationship between Catholic public officials and their church. In 2007 the Pope issued the following statement concerning Catholic public officials.

The Pope said public officials who vote in favor of abortion have "doubts about the value of life and the beauty of life and even a doubt about the future. Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation. We in the Church have a great struggle to defend is a gift not a threat." He went on to say, "... killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ."

So where does this leave a Catholic public official such as myself? Rather than ignore the question, let us use this moment to explore the question. In a community that is 90% Catholic (my guess) represented, for the most part, by Catholic public officials where do we stand on the question?

Something tells me I'm sure to get an answer.

Nov 21, 2009

It's Going to Be A Good Day For Texas

Getting ready for some football. My Alma Mater needs to keep winning in order to have a shot at the national title. So let it be written ... so let it be done!

Nov 20, 2009

The Greatest Thing ....

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is (just) to love and be loved in return".

- eden ahbez

Nov 19, 2009

Bringing Home the Bacon for the District

This is a celebratory photo that we took on the floor of the Texas House today. I was joined in the state capitol by the Elsa Mayor and the city council. A proud moment today as we succeeded in bringing more money back home to the district. More infrastructure dollars ($5.1 million dollars) to better serve our citizens.

I am shown here with City of Elsa officials: Mayor Senovio Castillo, Oscar Garcia, Jr., Cain Caceres and Robert Escobar. Also joining us is Elsa City Manager Maria Teresa Rodriguez.

The Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and our Census

On November 19, 1863, at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most memorable speeches in American history. In just 272 words, Lincoln brilliantly and movingly reminded a war-weary public why the Union had to fight, and win, the Civil War.

In the video of Lincoln's speech, is impersonator James Getty in probably the best version of Lincoln's speech that I have heard. When it comes to accent and the sound of his voice, this is what many believe Abraham Lincoln sounded like.

More importantly this is a speech about a war that redefined America. Abraham Lincoln's view of our Nation's purpose expounded in his speeches has been adopted by a clear majority of Americans.

Today, let us recommit ourselves to the perpetuation of a democracy in Lincoln's words "for the people, of the people, by the people".

In real specifics, at this moment in time, this means for me that we have a full and accurate census count so that we can- "Count Every Texan so that Every Texan Counts". Only then will we have adequate representation for communities like our own. Strengthen our democracy by encouraging your friends and neighbors to participate in our national census.

Nov 18, 2009

California Dreamin'

I was California Dreamin' and looking forward to a good national conference on health care and immigration policy but with the City of Elsa receiving critical Texas grants I've decided to cancel my flight today to the Los Angeles conference and am instead heading up to Austin with city leaders to close these deals with our state agency. These infrastructure dollars were critical to this small community and we aim to see that this arrangement is finalized. Hope to have some good news and pictures from Austin.

Nov 17, 2009

7-year-old El Paso Boy Killed in Juárez

The impact of an image or a message sometimes reverberates onward long past it's temporal origins. Burned onto our collective memories, powerful descriptions or photographs have the ability to encapsulate our deepest fears or ambitions.

Regardless of one's perspective the incident portrayed above of a father and son in the midst of a gun battle strikes a powerful instinctual cord that we all understand at a deep fundamental level. And so it is today as we learn the details of how a 7-year-old boy and his father were killed in the border city of Juárez on Friday.

Raul Xazziel Ramirez-Ramirez (Raulito, I'll call him), and his father were gunned down in Juárez. Young Raulito was a third-grade student at Glen Cove Elementary, an Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, Texas. This was his first semester at Glen Cove Elementary. He is shown in the photograph above dressed as an angel.

The boy's father, Raul Ramirez Alvarado, 35, was found with multiple gunshot wounds on the drivers' side of his white car. Raulito witnessed his father's death and was attempting to run away when he was shot multiple times in the back. Eighteen casings from a 9 mm weapon were found at the scene.

This undoubtedly was done by the same cold-hearted butchers that have taken Ciuadad Juarez - "murder capitol of the world" - down the path of anarchy.

Although the city has had numerous killings, the murder of this little Texas angel, with all his promise before him, should strengthen the resolve of our two countries. It certainly has strengthened mine.

For the moment, let us all take a moment to pray for our little Raulito and all the other lives that have been destroyed by drugs.

Pleased to Announce $1.9 Million for Hometown Infrastructure

I have informed the city of Edinburg that they have been awarded a grant in the amount of $1,974,325.00. The grant will allow the city to purchase and install permanent generators and other equipment at the city's water and wastewater plants. The funds will also make improvements to the city's drainage system. The $1.9 million award has been secured from 2008 Supplemental Disaster Recovery Funds managed by the Texas Department of Rural Affairs, Disaster Recovery Addition.

We have a great opportunity to use this money to make Edinburg safer and better prepared for the next natural disaster. We need to keep up the good work in securing these state and federal resources for our community.

The $1,974,325.00 will be used to purchase and install two permanently affixed 800 kW generators for the wastewater plant on M Road and the water plant on 15th Avenue and East Stubbs. The city will also have the opportunity to purchase and install a chlorinator for the wastewater plant. Improvements to the drainage system will include installation of new lines at Jackson and Alberta roads. The work will also eliminate the existing pumping structures and levee system. A pond excavation will provide for drainage to be a gravity flow process. The improvements to the city's drainage system and equipment purchases are designed to mitigate failures caused by damage from Hurricane Dolly.

The funds have been made available to the city from 2008 Supplemental Community Development Block Grant funding associated with the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance and Continuing Appropriations Act appropriated through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Nov 15, 2009

High Flight

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Going Rogue

Nov 14, 2009

Be Still

"What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself."

-- Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

What a beautiful day. Enjoy.

Nov 13, 2009

Our Family Gathers

Today I paid my respects to families who lost their sons in the war in Iraq at a ceremony at the Rio Grande Valley Veterans Cemetary in Mission. Valley children who lost a parent in service to our country received special recognition. US Senator John Cornyn participated in awarding the Gold Medal of Remembrance.

Another $500,000.00 For Our Community's Infrastructure

I am pleased to announce that the City of Elsa is set to receive a $500,000.00 grant for drainage improvements and equipment purchases for the city's water plant. I informed the mayor of the award which is being made available from 2008 Supplemental Disaster Recovery Fund grants as a result of damage incurred by Hurricane Dolly. The Texas Department of Rural Affairs, Disaster Recovery Division is the administrator of the program.

Hurricane Dolly dealt our community a heavy blow. We are now starting to see the federal and state government step in and provide important funding for infrastructure improvements. The hurricane exposed some flaws in that infrastructure and I applaud the city of Elsa and its leaders for the work they have done to address some of those concerns.

The $500,000.00 grant will be used to purchase a permanent generator to be installed at the city's water plant. The generator will be used to address power failures at the water plant. Drainage improvements include the removal of brush, excess silt and trash for the ditches south of the Salinas Hinojosa Subdivision. Culverts will be replaced on Ciro Caceres Rd. and Mile 4 West and Mile 4 West and S. Hwy. 107. Work will also include drainage improvements to ditches north of Abel Subdivision and culvert work on Mile 6 West and Mile 17 North.

The grant award is made available from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding associated with the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act administered by the Unites States Department of Housing and Urban Affairs. This funding comes soon after the city of Elsa was awarded over $6.4 million in grants from the Texas Water Development Board for sewer improvements. The city has also submitted a proposal for a $5 million grant for water improvements.

I met with the Mayor of Elsa, Senovio Castillo, yesterday afternoon to share the good news. He was looking forward to moving forward on addressing their city's infrastructure issue.

Nov 12, 2009

Valley Resident Marcel Albert is French Medal of Honor Recipient

Today I met one of the greatest Flying Aces of World War II, Marcel Albert. Interestingly enough this veteran, decorated by at least three countries, lives here in the Rio Grande Valley. Today he received the French Medal of Honor delivered to him personally by the French Ambassador.

I greeted Ambassador Pierre Vimont as he entered the airplane hanger along with his country's dignitaries. Like many Europeans they were fluent in multiple languages and had a good grasp of our Hispanic names. Attending the event were local dignitaries such as Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, State Senator Eddie Lucio, State Representative Armando Martinez, Weslaco Mayor Buddy de la Rosa, Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell and the military leadership of our local veterans. We were also joined by high ranking officers of the French and American military.

Marcel Albert is 92 years old but you can tell the fire still burns within him. Having been born in Paris, France, when the medal was placed on his lapel the French Ambassador spoke to him in French. Because I stood near Mr. Albert I couldn't help but hear him initially respond in English. A habit I'm sure he picked up in the United States. When I personally congratulated him I noted that he thanked me with a, merci beaucoup. (thank you very much) I responded with a polite merci.

Here is a brief background of Mr. Albert:

Marcel Albert was born in Paris on the 25th November 1917. On leaving school he took as a metal worker with the Renault Company before joining the Armée de l'Air on the 7th December 1938. Qualifying as a fighter pilot Albert was posted to the 1/3 Groupe de Chasse-Escadrille in early 1940, although he did not see any combat until the German Invasion in May. On the 14th May Marcel achieved his first combat victory when, flying a Dewoitine D.520, he shot down a Dornier Do.17 north of Suippes. Later that day he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf.109 although this was not confirmed. On the 20th he accounted for a Heinkel He.111 near Ham, but as France fell to the Germans, he and a few comrades escaped by plane from Oran to Gibraltar, and from there to England to join 340 Squadron "Ile de France" of the Free French Air Force. with which he flew 47 missions.

In 1942 he volunteered to join the groupe de Chasse No.3 "Normandie" to serve in Russia flying YAK fighters. Over the next few months his score of victories gradually increased, including a Junkers Ju.88 and two Focke-Wulf Fw.190s on the 15th October. By the end of October, now as the Commanding Officer of No.4 Escadrille his score had reached 23 plus two probable.

Returning to France in 1945, Marcel was decorated by both the French and Russian Governments (including the Crois de Guerre, aves 15 palmes et trois etoiles de Vermeil, and the order of Lenin) . After the war he served as French Air attaché to Prague, and later emigrated to the United States where he became a successful businessman. Today he lives in Harlingen, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley.

Our Valley veterans were extremely proud to be in the presence of such a brave and highly decorated soldier. It was good to see them interacting with Mr. Albert. A touching moment arose when an American World War II flyer who served on the American forces introduced himself to his French comrade. It was a great day.

The Rio Grande Guardian and The Monitor newspaper were there.

Nov 11, 2009

Visiting Freddy Gonzalez Veterans Nursing Home

I just returned from the Freddy Gonzalez Veterans' Nursing Home where I had a chance to pay my respects to the veterans who are living there. I had the pleasure of seeing the nursing homes namesake's mother, Dolia Gonzalez.

I also had a good talk with Rolando De La Rosa, the father of U.S. Army Sgt. Fernando “Ferna” De La Rosa, the Alamo soldier who recently lost his life in Afghanistan. It was touching to see Mr. De La Rosa making a point of shaking the hand of every veteran in the nursing home. He also addressed the audience.

I joined Ms. Gonzalez and Mr. De La Rosa for a photo along with a framed print of medal of honor recipient Freddy Gonzalez. The print was donated by the artist to the nursing home.

Veterans Day: The Valley Remembers

I spent the morning with Veterans and their families from across South Texas. On this special day of remembrance we dedicated three memorial walls containing the images of our those who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the families who lost their sons in war were present. It was a wonderful ceremony. We grieved together as one family. May God bless our soldiers and their loved ones.

Texas Metros Claim 4 of the Top 5 Spots In Job Creation

I am so pleased to report that my home community, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, ranked fourth in U.S. metros in it's ability to create and sustain jobs by the 2009 Milken Institute/Greenstreet Real Estate Partners Best-Performing Cities Index.

Texas metros claimed four of the top five spots and nine of the top sixteen. Austin led the pack as the number one city.

This index is further confirmation that Texas must be doing things right. It is a real tribute to our local businesses, the working men and women of this state and the wise trade we continue to have with our neighbors. A sincere congratulations to all. Here are the 2009 top 10 performers (with 2008 rankings) of the 200 largest metros:

1. Austin-Round Rock, TX (4)
2. Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, TX (13)
3. Salt Lake City, UT (3)
4. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX (7)
5. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX (16)
6. Durham, NC (21)
7. Olympia, WA (9)
8. Huntsville, AL (5)
9. Lafayette, LA (14)
10. Raleigh-Cary, NC (2)

Veterans Day: We Will Remember

On Veterans Day, America honors those who fought in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones.

Veterans Day actually started out as Armistice Day in 1919, a year after the Allies and Germany temporarily ceased hostilities in World War I. The day was to honor the veterans of the war. It later became Veterans Day and recognizes the service of all U.S. veterans.

This day is a federal and state holiday, which gives more people the opportunity to attend one of the many ceremonies in their communities. Here in South Texas where patrotism runs high, I will participate in several ceremonies across the Valley, honoring those who served as well as the many who have been taken from us.

Our veterans helped make this country what it is today: a nation envied by millions of others because of the freedoms and opportunities it offers. We thank them for their service.

Nov 10, 2009

Marine Corps Celebrates 234 Years

The United States Marine Corps celebrates its 234th birthday today. With Veterans Day occurring tomorrow it is fitting to have two major military dates fall during a week where we as a country are examining our national security in the wake the Fort Hood massacre.

Today I gathered at an event with veterans of various branches. The subject at that moment was the unique way the Marines celebrate their birthday. Veterans from other branches couldn't help giving the individuals who served in the Marines a good natured ribbing about their birthday celebrations. So when I got home I just had to look up the ritual so many of the other members were talking about. As noted:

"By tradition, the first slice of cake is given to the oldest Marine present, who in turn hands it off to the youngest Marine present, symbolizing the old and experienced Marines passing their knowledge to the new generation of Marines. The celebration also includes a reading of Marine Corps Order 47, republished every year, as well as a message from the current Commandant, and often includes a banquet and dancing if possible. Marines are reputed to celebrate the birthday, regardless of where they may be in the world, even in austere environments or combat."

Rituals and traditions are important to us, just as the men and women who serve our country are important to our well-being. Tonight I was invited to participate in a 234th birthday celebration for Marines from the Valley. I look forward to observing the traditions as well as giving thanks to our servicemen. Tomorrow we will follow up with a full day of Veterans Day events.

Nov 9, 2009

"Tear Down this Wall!"

The Berlin Wall fell twenty years ago on Nov. 9, 1989, ending almost 30 years of family separation of a singular community. On a day like today it is always fitting to remember President Reagan's speech at the Berlin Wall. Perhaps the most momentous event in the last half of the 20th century took place on this date The Berlin Wall came down.

"We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Interestingly enough and rightfully so, most Americans see it as a symbolic end of tyranny. Here in the borderlands of this country, on the edges of my legislative district, Americans forget that a similar wall was constructed (sadly with the help of misguided elected officials) separating family members and a singular community.

How long will it take the people of this country to see the contradictions in today's celebrations while we continue to construct our own wall in my community's backyard. I hope to live to see the day. In the meantime, I join in the celebrations ending this symbol of tyranny.

Here in South Texas we ask that our nation continue to remember this day, as we undoubtedly will, with the vivid and wasteful reminder that we live with here along the border. After the fear diminishes and the recognition of the enormous cost to our country is realized maybe we here on the border can find an additional reason to celebrate. Until then this day shall remain bitter-sweet.

Today is a day when all lovers of freedom can happily proclaim their rejection on any attempt to divide a people. In the words of a wise president, "Tear Down this Wall!"

* * *

The text and audio of Reagan's speech at Brandenburg Gate.

(photo credit: No Border Wall)

Nov 7, 2009

The Hargill 2009 Cook-Off

The Cook-Off.
The Cooking Team.
The Head Cook.
Our Victory Enforcement Caucus.

A South Texas Cook-Off

Today I am taking part in the Annual Hargill Cook-Off. Each year we put together a team and do our darndest to win one of the various cook-off categories. Mainly, it's just eating and having fun, South Texas style. Here is a photo slideshow from 2007.

I'll update you later on how we did.

Nov 6, 2009

A Hopson's Choice

My dear friend, Representative Chuck Hopson has scheduled a press conference in which he will announce that he is switching parties. Hopson, a conservative Democrat, follows a number of other East Texas Democrats who have recently converted to the Republican Party.

The phrase "A Hobson's Choice"

. . . is a free choice in which only one option is offered, and one may refuse to take that option. The choice is therefore between taking the option or not; "take it or leave it."

Because of the mood of the country, and the changing political demographics of his district, the Representative may have seen this as his only option to survive a competitive election and to still reflect the views and values of his conservative district.

My best wishes to the good Representative.

Nov 5, 2009

Our Prayers Are With Them

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte Honored As A "Legend of Success"

San Antonio State Senator Leticia Van de Putte will be honored today at a noontime gathering of the Rio Grande Valley's Dress for Success organization. She will be joined by two other recipients: Dora Brown of IBC Bank and Yvonne Gonzalez of Workforce Solutions.

The three women will be given the organization's Legend of Success award for their commitment to the mission of the organization.

The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

Today's event begins at 11:30 a.m. at the McAllen Country Club in McAllen, Texas. Tickets will be available at the door.

Nov 4, 2009

Keynoting for the RGV Builders' Association

I've never joined a noontime toastmasters, a fact that I always regretted because of an innate shyness I've always had toward public speaking. As a public official however, I think I am asked to give so many speeches to local groups that I think I far surpassed any number I would have been able to attain in a local toastmaster club. Today I added another to the long list. Builders, like everyone else, were concerned today about the economy and the recovery from the recession.