Mission firefighter who battled Australian fires honored

For 33 days Rey Navarro battled some of the worst bushfires in Australia’s history, across the globe from his hometown of Mission. Thursday night the city of Mission and the Boys & Girls Club of Mission recognized the firefighter, whose first job was working with the Mission Boys & Girls Club. Navarro, 39, was presented with an award and helped pass out trophies to Boys & Girls Club athletes at the ceremony. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

SPI making preparations for Spring Break

In an effort to provide a safe and secure experience for residents, visitors and Spring Breakers, city officials of this coastal city have made preparations for this annual upcoming vacation period. South Padre Island police and fire department officials discussed their plans for Spring Break Thursday morning during a press conference. SPI Fire Chief Jim Pigg kicked off the press conference with his department’s preparations. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Inside Texas’ last Kmart

The last Kmart in Texas stands in South McAllen, on the corner of 10th and the expressway, just across the parking lot from Furr’s Fresh Buffet. It won’t be there for long though; Transformco, the company that bought out Kmart and Sears in a bankruptcy sale last year, announced the McAllen store would be closing earlier this month. In its prime, the hundred-plus-year-old retailer operated thousands of stores across the world. By summer, the number of Kmarts left will be winnowed down to a few dozen. Read the full story at themonitor.com

2019 RGV Citizens of the Year: Valley MPO officials

Many cities and towns comprise the Rio Grande Valley, yet it generally is regarded as a single entity, with common characteristics, goals and problems. Its residents can be seen as one big family. Like any family, the relationships among the member cities and counties are complicated. Despite their commonality they sometimes come at odds, competing for key businesses and other features that can boost the economy not only of the Valley as a whole, but also of the host city. Clashes over the placement of institutions such as the medical school or funding allocations have even raised consternation from state officials who said no allocations would be considered until local officials stopped bickering and presented a single regional request. Sometimes, however, sensible, regional thinking develops on its own, and that happened in a big way when the Valley’s three metropolitan planning organizations, which plan transportation projects for the areas they cover, agreed to merge into one regional body. Read the full story at themonitor.com

UTRGV inducts latest class into Hall of Fame

The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Athletics Hall of Fame ushered in its 2020 Class Saturday morning, welcoming six new members and one team for their athletic achievements and contributions to Pan American University, University of Texas Pan American, and now UTRGV. “We have a rich tradition and we’re celebrating that here today. I understand that our name has changed over the years, but our legacy and our commitment to our tradition is unwavering,” UTRGV Athletic Director Chasse Conque said. “It’s my promise that we’ll never forget where we’ve come from, those that have come before us, those that have changed the lives of young people, those that have given so much back to this university, and those that have done so much to bring great recognition and pride to this institution and the Rio Grande Valley.” The team inducted into the 2020 UTRGV Athletics Hall of Fame was the 1989 Women’s Tennis Team. The 1989 Women’s Tennis Team won the American South Conference Championship, the first in program history, which was the only one until UTRGV won the Western Athletic Conference title in 2016. As a team, the Broncs went 11-6 overall and 3-0 in conference play. The team included Kim Butler, Barbara Gonzales, Leah Hampton, Gail Illingworth, Mary Jane Hetrick, Christiane Reetz, and Tania Webster. They were led by head coach David Cross and assistant Zia Kahn. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Former Monitor editor named county spokesman

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez hired a former Monitor editor as his new spokesman after his former spokeswoman asked to be transferred last year. Carlos Sanchez, who served as editor in chief for the Monitor from 2013 to 2018, made the announcement via social media Monday night, telling friends and family he was leaving journalism after nearly four decades in the industry. “There’s a sadness to it,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been in the career for 37 years, but there’s also an excitement. My last newsroom would have been my 10th newsroom. I’ve lived in at least half a dozen cities, and this move, for the first time, makes me feel like I’m planting roots in a community.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Brownsville zoo tags barn owls to measure rehabilitation efforts 

Gladys Porter Zoo tagged five barn owls as it prepared to release them after months of care at the zoo, where they learned to hunt their prey to survive in the wild. Some of the owls arrived at the zoo in their “fluffy” state, with their eyes still closed. The owls were brought in by members of the community who found them in the nest. “They are defenseless when they are born and they are completely dependent on mom, so when they bring them in, they bring them to me in these stages that we call them ‘fluffies’ because basically it is a cotton ball with legs and they know nothing about how to fend for themselves, how to feed themselves,” Alejandra Olvera, vet technician at the zoo, said. Read the full story at themonitor.com

RGV seeing return of drought conditions

Weather is often unpredictable but it still can be repetitive. Just as in late 2017, parts of Cameron County are now in moderate drought conditions, which are spreading northward from Brownsville to the outskirts of Harlingen. “Brownsville and the very southern part of Cameron County are currently in moderate drought and up toward Harlingen it is abnormally dry,” Matthew Brady, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Brownsville, said Monday. “As you go further west across the Valley and into Starr and Zapata counties, we actually go from moderate to severe to even extreme drought in Zapata County.” The latest drought conditions were released last week by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Read the full story at themonitor.com

March protests Sharyland’s handling of assault allegations

Shouts interrupted the peaceful quacking of ducks in Mission’s Bannworth Park on Saturday afternoon as about 50 people protesting Sharyland ISD’s handling of recent allegations of abuse at the high schools marched from the park and south along Shary Road. “Shame on Sharyland!” protesters wielding signs and a megaphone yelled as they passed Sharyland High, pausing for a moment to turn and shout at the school. The march followed speeches from former students and parents describing specific instances of harassment and abuse at the district. The district has faced criticism over its handling of a fall 2019 hazing incident, allegedly involving the Pioneer swim team, which is being investigated by Corpus Christi police. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Border expert endorses Brownsville riverfront redevelopment

Alan Bersin, Bill Clinton’s “border czar” and the person Barack Obama chose to grapple with drug-related violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, stood on the levee south of the border fence in downtown Brownsville, surveying the banks of the Rio Grande below and, just to the east, Gateway International Bridge. The former federal prosecutor was joined by Ramiro Aleman, director of business recruitment for the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation; Cameron County Precinct 2 Commissioner Joey Lopez; attorney and GBIC commissioner Dennis Sanchez; Mark Yates, director of the Cameron County Department of Economic Development and Community Affairs; and Sam Manatt, owner of the levee on which the group stood on the morning of Jan. 17. Bersin is a global fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington D.C., the inaugural North American fellow for the Wilson Center’s Canada and Mexico institutes, and chairman of BorderWorks, a consulting firm specializing in border security and management, including border infrastructure projects. Read the full story at themonitor.com