He's back

A Nueces County Commissioners Court meeting was one member short last week as Precinct 3 Commissioner Oscar Ortiz recovered from open-heart surgery Feb. 7.

However, the Robstown native surprised county leaders and attendees alike at the Feb. 20 meeting when he walked through the door towards his seat on the court just after a morning workshop had been completed.

After some applause and hugs from members of the Commissioners Court, and the court entered into its regular session, Ortiz addressed the audience.

"I just want to thank everyone for their consideration and support over the past couple of weeks," the visibly weakened commissioner said.

"But I'm going to be back - full speed ahead," Ortiz added with his familiar chuckle.

Moment of silence

During an appearance Friday at a rally in Corpus Christi, presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, paid tribute to an officer killed Friday in the line of duty.

Senior Cpl. Victor Lozada Tirado was killed in Dallas after apparently crashing into a concrete barrier, police said.

Tirado was serving on a motorcycle detail that was guiding U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's motorcade through the city.

Before his rally, Obama announced the death of Tirado, whom he said had escorted his own motorcade through the city two days before. A moment of silence was given in memory of Tirado.

Clinton cancelled an appearance in Fort Worth when she learned of the officer's death and visited with the officer's family instead.

Return to sender

During the first part of his speech, Obama was quick to point out a reason he thought so many people have become excited for the upcoming November general election.

"They know that no matter what happens, the name George W. Bush won't be on the ballot," Obama said to loud cheers and applause.

"We're sending him back to Texas," he added with a smile, and the crowd playfully responded with a loud series of "boos."

He's my cousin

Obama also treated the crowd to a little bit of political trivia that seemed to surprise members of the audience - he and Vice President Dick Cheney are cousins.

"It turns out we had a distant relative," Obama began before an audience member gave a loud "boo" from the seats of the American Bank Center, where the Illinois senator was speaking.

Quick to bounce back from the interruption, Obama grinned and said: "That's how I felt."

The response drew heavy laughter and applause from the 6,500 supporters in attendance. Cheney and Obama are eighth cousins through a distant relative.

"Off the Wall" is compiled from various public meetings from around Nueces County. News Editor Tim Olmeda contributed to this report.