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Posts published in January 2004

METROrail glides into service: Opening day crowds enthusiastic

By GILBERT HOFFMAN

HOUSTON– Thousands of enthusiastic first time riders tried out the new Houston METRO light rail rides on New Year’s Day, as the fourth largest city in the United States finally got a rail system, similar to most other major cities.

Metro estimated that as many as 15,000 were on hand during the first day, when rides were free and the trains ran every 15 minutes from 1:30 to 5:30. Metro employees were on hand to answer questions, give directions, and insure that no accidents marred the first day proceedings.

Staff of the Northeast News were among the first riders, and our impressions were that the trains were pleasant, and effective in moving people along the Main Street corridor.

Most everyone we talked with had the same feeling, and the day was festive and pleasant, with most all the riders having a good time and being courteous to each other, even when a delayed train now and then caused the lines to get long.

The current line only runs for about 7 miles north and south on Main Street in downtown Houston. The next segment that is planned to be built, according to Metro, will be a 5 mile stretch that connect downtown to the Northline Mall area.

Regular service on the first segment is scheduled to start on Monday, January 5th, and will run all day from approximately 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. in the evening.

Trains will be 12 to 15 minutes apart, and can carry as many as 400 riders, including standing room.

Fares will be $1 per one way, and $2 for an all day pass good for 24 hours. These fares, whether purchased at the MetroRail or on a bus, are good for transfers for 3 hours, so Metro expects the new rail system to be part of the overall network that riders will use.

As the accompanying map shows, the first segment runs from University of Houston–Downtown campus at the north, to the Reliant Stadium and Park and Ride lot on the South.

Mayor Lee Brown drove the first rail car out of the yard and into service at a ceremony Thursday morning, breaking a paper ribbon.

On Friday, mayor-elect Bill White used the METROrail to travel to Hermann Park and Miller Theater, where the official swearing in ceremony took place at 9 a.m. This is the first time the swearing in took place away from City Hall, and certainly the first time rail was used to get there.

Shootout on Aldine Mail Route: Police foil robbery attempt, kill suspect

By P.J. WILLIAMS

A robbery suspect was shot and killed Dec. 27 when Harris County sheriff’s deputies foiled a heist at Burger King on Aldine Mail Route near U.S. 59.

The incident occurred at 11:30 p.m. last Saturday when two masked men shot through the front glass and forced their way into the restaurant. There were no customers in the restaurant at the time.

Employees fled to the manager’s office and locked themselves in. The robbers shot out the office window and demanded money, threatening the employees at gunpoint.

During the ordeal, the men shot an employee in the right arm. Another employee suffered breathing problems after the attack and went to a local hospital.

When police arrived, the suspects fled in opposite directions. As they fled, the robbers fired a weapon at the One hid behind the restaurant where an officer found him with a bag of money.

The other suspect fled north into a strip center parking lot across Aldine Mail Route. While in pursuit, a deputy reported that he heard a gunshot and that the man refused to drop the weapon even after the deputy fired several warning shots. Then, according to the deputy, he shot the suspect after he turned the shotgun on the officer. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.

The robbery was similar to those in a recent crime spree, which includes at least 10 violent hold ups at area restaurants since October. But police say this holdup is not related to the others.

Police are still looking for suspects in the crime spree. They are described as a black woman and three black men. All the suspects are believed to be between 19 and 25 years old.

The woman is described as about 5’5″ and 150 pounds. The men are between 5′ 6″ and 6′ 2″. One has a teardrop tattoo under one eye and short braids.

Aldine Coach of the Year Rowe at forefront of Cougars’ dream season

By Mike Keeney
Contributing Writer

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Just ask Nimitz High head coach Randy Rowe and his Nimitz Cougars.

After eight weeks, the Cougars were 3-5 and on the outside looking in as far as their playoff chances were concerned. But in Week 9 in a must win situation against Stratford, the Cougars came through with a 28-13 victory and the following week they defeated MacArthur High 31-28 on a last-second field goal to keep their playoffs hopes alive.

Still, the Cougars needed a little help, ironically enough, from Stratford to see their playoff chances become reality. As fate would have it, Stratford provided a huge boost when they upset Memorial, knocking Memorial out of the playoffs and putting Nimitz in.

And Nimitz made the most of its opportunity once they got into the playoffs.

The Cougars reeled off three straight wins to reach the Region III finals for the first time in school history and although Nimitz fell to Katy in the Region III finals, Rowe said the 2003 season will be one that he and his players will never forget.

“I just felt good about our chances once we got in the playoffs,” Rowe said. “We felt we could make a run, and that’s exactly what we did. We went about it the tough way, but things ended up working out for us.”

The fast finish and march through the playoffs earned Rowe the Northeast News’ Coach of the Year Award for the second time in three years.

Nimitz was definitely the local Cinderella story for the 2003 football season.

The Cougars entered their bi-district tilt against Baytown Lee as 21-point favorites, a fact Rowe made sure his team was well aware of prior to kickoff.

“I read them an article on the field right before the game that basically said we had no chance to win. That kind of fired all of us up.”

The Cougars trailed 21-7 at half-time to Lee, but rallied for a 24-21 win on a field goal by Jose Guerra with 11 seconds left in the game.

The following week, the Nimitz defense stepped up to lead the Cougars to a 28-7 win over Galveston Ball.

A week later, Nimitz upended Hightower 14-13 in overtime to reach the Region III finals for the first time in school history.

Although the season ended there, Rowe said the run his team made was a total team effort.

“Our defense started playing better, we protected the football on offense and our special teams played great, and I’m not just talking about our kicking game. Our coverage was good and our punt team really pinned teams deep. Our coaches did a great job of keeping the faith and getting the kids to believe in one another.”

Rowe added his players never lost sight of what could be accomplished, even when they were 3-5.

“Even when we were 3-5, the kids kept believing they could get it done.

Each Monday we would point out in our scouting report what we would have to do to win that week. To their credit, the kids paid attention and bought into what we were saying. It wasn’t easy, but you know what, this year kind of parallels life.

We all face adversity and these kids will face adversity the older they get. They can look back on this season and draw from this experience when they are challenged as adults. These kids are fighters. They could have folded the tent, but they didn’t. I could not be more proud of a group of young men and our entire coaching staff.”

Rowe just completed his fourth year at Nimitz. In his four years on the job, he has led the Cougars to the playoffs three times and has forged a 26-22 overall record at the Aldine ISD school.

The 39-year-old has also served as head coach at Skidmore-Tynan, Palestine Westwood and Cleveland. Prior to taking the Nimitz job, Rowe was the athletic director at DeSoto High School for two years.

Rowe, a graduate of Northwestern University, credits his father with influencing him on becoming a football coach.

“My dad was an educator and a football coach for 33 years. He’s always been my hero. I go to him for advice to this day,” said Rowe, whose father taught and coached in the East Texas town of Lovelady.

Rowe, who has 15 years of experience in the profession, said the 2003 season will forever be etched in his memory.

“This was probably the most enjoyable year I’ve spent as a head coach because of the things we accomplished. I can’t say enough about the job our coaching staff did and the job our kids did. Like I said before, they never gave up.”

And while he was proud to be named the News’ Coach of the Year, Rowe was quick to point out that the award would be shared with his staff.

“Our coaches did a great job of keeping the kids up and preparing them each week. A lot of people outside of the profession don’t realize how much coaches impact young people’s lives on a daily basis. I’m proud to work with these men and while I’m proud of this award, I believe it should go to my staff, who I think is the staff of the year.”

2003: a year in review

By PJ Williams

January
• Top basketball players showed their skills at the M.O. Campbell center when the Academy National Tournament was held in Aldine.
• Gene Green was sworn into office for his sixth congressional term.
• Aldine ISD named a new school after long-time employee Jewell Simpson Houston.

February
• Fifteen AISD senior football players earned college scholarships.
• Aldine FFA students earned more than $78,000 at the 44th annual show.
• Shuttle Columbia exploded above Texas. Aldine residents were mixed on whether NASA should continue to send humans into space.
• Residents voiced opinions on possible war with Iraq, flooding, unemployment, and Medicare at Gene Green’s town meeting.
• Aldine YOUTH director Sylvia Bolling received recognition from METRO as an outstanding African –American and from Iota Phi Lambda as Outstanding Woman of the Year.

March
• AISD named a school after longtime trustee Doug Bussey and four administration buildings after former superintendent Sonny Donaldson.
• Aldine ISD’s desegregation order was lifted. The board studied challenges of “unitary” status.
• Representative Ken Bailey began hearings on HPD Crime Lab misconduct.


April
• The Harris County Health Department tore down 44 abandoned homes under the Nuisance Abatement Laws.
• Area residents voiced their opinions about the war in Iraq through “The View in the Northeast”, signs, flags, and ribbons.
• Aldine Improvement District (AID) kicked off a month-long Clean Aldine campaign, which featured “Art Trash Cans.”
• AID also installed 87 new streetlights along Aldine Mail Route to improve safety.

May
• Area residents re-elected three trustees to the Aldine ISD school board.
• Caraway Intermediate’s assistant principal Kathy MacLennon quit after Agbar the drug dog found an illegal substance in MacLennon’s car.
• Rep. Kevin Bailey and the 54 other democrats who left for Oklahoma to stop a vote on redistricting returned.
• Vandals damaged schools in Aldine and Houston ISDs. Two different groups destroyed over 50 windows in Aldine.

June
• North Forest ISD dismissed Superintendent Dr. Edwin Walker. The school board filled the position with Interim Superintendent Dr. Elaine Berry.
• Local agencies adopted the Freeport Exemption.
• AID approved new sidewalks along Aldine Mail Route.

July
• Governor Perry called a special session to address redistricting.
• Eastex Fire Department used a new Auto External Defibrillator to save Les Smith when he had a heart attack outside the Houston Shell Open.
• Fire destroyed 16 apartment units at a complex on Goodson.

August
• Congress people Gene Green, Chris Bell, and Sheila Jackson Lee visited Israel as guest of the American Israeli Political Action Committee.
• Area residents celebrated National Night Out with community block parties.
• A fire at the Rosewood Rehab Treatment Center on Crofton killed two residents.
• The nation’s largest computer virus affected Aldine ISD and Harris County Sheriff’s Department and local businesses.

September
• Area teens shot two horses and two mules at a stable on Furay Street.
• Oleson Elementary students were hurt when a bus from the Avella Company flipped after a collision on JFK.
• The sheriff’s storefront reopened on Aldine Mail Route after extensive remodeling.

October
• An acid spill closed I45 for several hours.
• A driver crashed into Thompson Elementary school.
• The sheriff’s police academy graduated over 25 citizens.

November
• Voters approved the extended METRO rail lines.
• Eisenhower graduate Sgt. Keelan Moss died in Iraq when the helicopter he was riding in crashed.
• Local politicians dedicated a new Veterans Memorial Park on Tidwell near the Hardy Toll Road.
• Heavy storms flooded area streets just a school ended. Many students waded home through knee high water and a few had to spend the night at school.

December
• METRO announced planned light rail extensions to Northline Mall as its next phase.
• Voters elected Bill White as Houston’s new mayor.
• Toys were stolen from a terminally ill teenager after he received a shopping spree. They were found in an apartment on Aldine Bender.

Waiting in the Atlanta Airport

Spent two hours sitting inside Concourse C @ Atlanta Airport this morning waiting on my airpane. That’s how little Toby says airplane.

Sat on a front row seat facing the lobby and admired the traveling folk. Got an eye full too as I like to sit, watch, and observe people. Been nice to have one of my buds around to talk about the folks as they passed.

One load of folks came in from cold country because they were holding big coats. It was 57 in Atlanta this morning when I got up and not big coat weather inside that large airport.

For the life of me, I cain’t see how some female women wear those raised high heel shoes with a five or six inch heel with a two inch sole. It’d kill me to walk that far with them thangs on my feet and the Atlanta airport ain’t no small place. Seems like each Concourse is as long as a drag strip and there are three of them I do believe.

I was observing the gait or strut of people: Ladies walking lady like, men walking like a man. There were some runners too going to their gates due to their delayed flight.

One dude was all decked out in black with his walk and hands pointing around like a rap singer as he strutted along.

Lots of wheelchairs and those golf cart busses beeping, trying to get people out of their way. I walk on the right side and they can go around me.

People kept their children close at hand and I would too. It would make a child cry to get lost in that place. Dog tags would not be a bad idea.

This person in a sports jacket sat down in the row of seats next to me and then laid down. I kept waiting for security to come by and tell him to sit up, but none ever did or showed up. Three seats, a table thing and his foot on the next seat: long man indeed, in my book. He lay there for an hour at least. That’s rude and shows his ignorance.

Mind you, I was sitting in the seats that had a wheelchair and a circle around it as I am qualified to do so.

Numerous persons sat in the seat next to the seat next to me. Don’t think they were actually qualified to sit there but maybe they thought I was not either.

Lots of nice blue jeans walking up the aisle to passenger pick up and baggage claim, some with their bellies showing and some with meat hanging out over the jeans too.

About 30 minutes before they announced my flight, I went to the multi commode/urinal room, and then thought I’d get an Atlanta paper before the flight. Boy could the Summit have taken a lesson on how to build a head. Other sports arenas could do the same. No waiting in line in one of those at the Atlanta Airport.

Went back to my seat and it was taken. Matter of fact, my whole row of seats was taken. Big boy was still stretched out over 3 seats and a table and his foot was still resting on the end seat.

Here I am with a pound or two of newspaper and my new little carry on with a jar of fig preserves and a jar of pear preserves plus my sport coat was inside the handle and all the other stuff my aunt put in for me.

I went up and banged my newspaper on big dude’s foot to wake him up. He looked up and sat up in his seat. He was either sleeping good or had one fine hangover because he went back to sleep with his head in his hand.