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November 1, 2013

By Ed Sterling Texas Press Association

STATE CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS

Texas voters will decide the fate of nine proposed amendments to the state constitution in the coming election. Early voting began Oct. 21 and runs through Nov. 1. Numbers reported Oct. 25 showed that voting is on track to outpace turnout in recent elections. The Secretary of State’s office reports daily voting totals for the 15 most populous counties in the state, and by the end of Oct. 24, the fourth day of early voting, about 95,000 Texans had cast a ballot at the polls in those counties. That was more than double the 45,379 voters who had voted at the same point in 2011 constitutional amendment election, the Secretary of State’s office said. The Nov. 5 constitutional amendment election is the first statewide election since photo ID requirements for voting in person went into effect. Computer users who have an Internet connection can see daily voter turnout numbers for early voting in this and past elections by visiting the elections tab at sos. state.tx.us. Focus of week is safety On Oct. 21, the Texas Education Agency and Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University jointly pointed school districts and charters toward resources available to help address and combat bullying and cyber-bullying on campuses. That message, part of Texas Safe Schools Week, Oct. 20-26, fit with a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 mandating that schools make campuses safer for all students. Gov. Rick Perry, in his Oct. 4 Texas Safe Schools Week proclamation, said, “All children deserve

to learn in an environment where they feel safe and free from harm.” State law defines bullying as “engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, or in a vehicle operated by the district and that has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or of damage to the student’s property; or is sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student.” Texas School Safety Center’s inaugural Texas Bully Prevention Summit in San Marcos is set for Oct. 30. A&M Israel is planned On location in Israel on Oct. 23, Gov. Perry and Israeli President Shimon Peres, joined by Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp and other TAMU System executives, announced the creation of an international branch of Texas A&M University in Israel. Funding for development and construction of the campus, to be located in the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth, will come from private donations. The governor’s office released a statement on the topic, saying, “Locating a branch campus of Texas A&M University in Israel will further strengthen the economic and cultural ties Gov. Perry has worked for two decades to foster between Texas and Israel. In developing the new campus,

a strong emphasis will be placed on building bridges of peace and understanding through education among the region’s vibrant and diverse cultures and religions.” Williams resigns from Senate In early October, state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, announced he would not remain in office for the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature. Last week, Williams, an accountant by trade, said he would resign from office, effective at midnight, Oct. 25. Williams chaired the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee in 2013. In 2011, he chaired the Senate Transportation Committee. He began is legislative career in 1997 as a House member. In 2003 he was elected to the Senate. Enforcement push slows crime The Texas Department of Public Safety on Oct. 24 announced results of an enforcement initiative titled, “Operation Strong Safety.” Targeting the Rio Grande Valley, this state, local and federal multi-agency effort brought about an increase patrols Sept. 15 through Oct. 4 to address three public safety issues: criminal activity; commercial vehicles traffic on roadways and unsafe driving practices. “These 24/7 saturation patrols were sustained until the cartels were forced to curtail their drug and human smuggling operations in the targeted area,” the DPS reported. Beefed up law enforcement in the area resulted in decreases in the illegal trafficking of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, U.S. currency and stolen vehicles, plus a list of other positive effects.

Funding statues not in the best interest of Mission

There’s no doubt Leo Najo, born Leonardo Alaniz, has earned a place in Mission history. A member of the 3030s Mission baseball team in the ’20s, Najo went on to become the first Hispanic professional baseball player in the United States. We have every reason to be proud and want to honor that significant piece of Mission history. At a recent Mission City Council meeting, $25,000 of public money was set aside for a statue in Najo’s honor. The funding will come from hotel-motel tax revenues, money collected from a special tax when people stay in a Mission hotel or motel. It can be used to promote tourism and the tout the hotel industry. But the Leo Najo statue doesn’t seem like a wellthought out plan. It seems to have come out of left field. City officials don’t even know for sure where they want to put it. We would like city officials to consider whether the statue is in the best interest of the city. Is it the best way to promote tourism in Mission? Our answer is no. That money can be put toward a number of projects that have been put on the back-burner for years. Two of the most significant projects are the renovation of La Placita Park in downtown Mission the construction of a special events center. Anyone who has attended an event at La Placita recently has observed the unsafe condition of the facility. The sidewalks are so uneven due to shifting of the ground underneath that they present a constant trip hazard. To “safeguard” the public, the

TEXAS Cuellar comments on unmanned aircraft report

Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX28) released the following statement on the release of the Privacy Impact Assessment on Customs & Border Protection’s use of both manned and unmanned aircraft systems: “As a Congressman representing a district with over 300 miles of border, I applaud U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Privacy Office for their efforts to ensure the transparency of our border security activities,” Cuellar said. “These two

agencies recently published a report that found minimal risk of unintentional privacy violations from the use of manned and unmanned aircraft for border security and law enforcement purposes. Unmanned aerial systems are monitored at all times by operators and only used in support of authorized missions. In addition, all unmanned systems are protected from potential hackers and any data collected by aircraft sensors is safely stored in secure locations.” “I remain committed to the use of technology and

smart border security to keep Americans safe but I will be the first to support continued investigation of potential privacy concerns regarding unmanned systems. Ensuring that our nation’s borders are secured and Americans’ privacy remains protected is a delicate balance, but it is one that we must engage in to fulfill our responsibility to the American people.” The report is now available for public view on DHS’ Privacy Office’s website at http://www.dhs.gov/ privacy-documents-us-customs-and-border-protection.

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city spray paints the cracks with orange paint when an event is held there. Being the only venue to host an event in the downtown Mission area, this facility gets much use for events such as the Texas Citrus Fiesta, Winter Texan Fiesta, Mission’s National Night Out, and many other events. This facility, built in the 1980s, also is not handicapped-accessible. A major renovation would be required to bring the facility up to ADA standards. Every time the badly-needed repairs are brought up, the city responds that it is too expensive and the city does not have the money. While the Mission Community Center brings back memories of high school dances attended in the 1960s, it is OLD, out of date, too small and sorely inadequate for a city the size of Mission. It is sad when Mission organizations have to look to neighboring communities, such as La Joya and McAllen, to host large indoor events for 1,000-plus attendees. As an example, the Mission Lions Club had to hold a concert for Winter Texans in Pharr earlier this year, because there was no place to hold it in Mission. We should be holding those and many other tourism related events in Mission. Mission needs a well thought out plan for a special events center, designed to match the needs of the city, and yet pay its own way for operations and maintenance. According to the Texas Municipal League guidelines for cities enacting the hotel-motel occupancy tax, “every expenditure must DI-

RECTLY enhance and promote tourism AND the convention and hotel industry.” A well planned special events center could be used to attract smaller-scale conventions and events that would greatly enhance tourism, bringing in tourism dollars. For example, Winter Texans spend $750 million annually in the Valley. Add to that nature tourism, conventions and more. Even more pressing is the need to renovate La Placita Park. With a re-design, this facility, which already receives much use, could be greatly improved to serve the city even better – and more safely. We must emphasize that we are not against constructing a statue to honor Leo Najo. His achievements are worthy of honoring, but not with public funding, at least not now. The Najo statue should be funded through private donations as was the “Working Man” statue of Mayor Norberto Salinas in front of City Hall. It is admirable that members of the Upper Valley Art League are volunteering their time and talent to construct the 8-foot statue. Members also are responsible for constructing the statue of Kika De La Garza erected at the corner of Business 83 and Conway Avenue as well as the “Working Man” statue. We thank the art league for their dedication to honoring Mission’s “favorite sons.” Still, we challenge city leaders to be prudent with public money and use it where it will benefit all of Mission best.

John Cornyn TIMES

An unlikely beginning for Johnson Space Center

By U.S. Sen. John Cornyn You can’t judge a book by its cover. And if in 1961 you happened to be standing in the wind-battered cow pasture on the shores of Clear Lake, just southeast of downtown Houston, you could be forgiven for not believing that in a few short years, this would be the future home of an elite cadre of scientists and airmen, destined to leave this planet and set foot on another world. This year marks the 5oth anniversary since NASA’s Johnson Space Center—originally named the Manned Spacecraft Center— opened its doors. As recently told to the Houston Chronicle, the effort to land the nation’s premiere space center in Houston was not your typical application process. But thanks to the foresight of a group of Houston businessmen and the deft political maneuvering of one powerful Texas politician, Space City was born. Interestingly, it wasn’t the politician whose name the center now bears. Rather, it

was longtime Houston Congressman Albert Thomas. As NASA’s site selection committee contemplated Baton Rouge, Jacksonville, Tampa, and even San Francisco, Thomas used his influence on the House Appropriations Committee to bring NASA to Houston. In the intervening years, Houston has become synonymous with humankind’s exploration of space. As the home of Mission Control and the training facility for the Astronaut Corps, humanity’s progress into the vast unknown has, quite literally, been led by Texans. From the days of Project Gemini, when San Antonio native Lt. Col. Ed White became the first American to perform a spacewalk, to the Apollo era, which brought mankind to a new world, and on through the Space Shuttle program and it’s enduring legacy, the International Space Station, Texans have pioneered the celestial frontier. As anyone living in Clear Lake and the surrounding area knows, these remark-

able men and women are not only explorers, scientists, and engineers at the tops of their fields: they are friends and neighbors, fellow congregants at churches, and parents cheering on the local little league team. Over the last five decades, Houstonians have shared in the triumphs and tragedies that have befallen the NASA community. The city rejoices with each safe return to Earth of its fellow Texans, and it grieves deeply when they are taken away by the ever-present dangers of spaceflight. Americans of all ages look to NASA for inspiration. We see in our astronauts the manifestation of the highest ideals of the American spirit: forging ahead into a new and dangerous frontier in the courageous pursuit of knowledge. The achievements of the last 50 years have been breathtaking. Now, as we move beyond the Space Shuttle program and into a new era of exploration, the world will once again look to Texas for its bold leadership into space.

www.progresstimes.net

1217 N. Conway • Mission, TX (956) 585-4893 MEMBER 2013

TEXAS PRESS ASSOCIATION

The Progress Times (USPS 971-420; ISSN 0890-2666) is published each Friday by Mission Publishing Co., 1217 N. Conway, Mission, Texas 78572, (956) 585-4893. Subscriptions $20 annual in Hidalgo County; $25 outside of Hidalgo County. Second class postage paid in Mission, Texas 78572. ©2013 Mission Publishing Company, Inc. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to the PROGRESS TIMES, P.O. Box 399, Mission Texas 78573.

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Letters to the Editor are welcome but must conform to certain guidelines. All letters must be original, dated, signed and bear the complete name, address and phone number of the writer/signer. No photo copied letters will be printed. No letters addressed to others will be printed. Letter content must be relevant to concerns and interests of Mission and the surrounding area. Relevance is determined by the editor. Anonymous cards or letters are neither read nor printed. Letters may be submitted by e-mail to letters@progresstimes.net, but must include the author’s name and daytime phone number.

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