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Posts published in June 2005

METRO line North derailed

New plan substitutes buses; no airport rail connections


Houston’s METRO announced a revised mobility plan last Monday, which was quite different from previously announced plans, and some critics say not what the voters were asked to approve in November 2003.

Officials from Metro stated that the new plan was necessary to get approval from the federal government for funding, and to win the support of local congressmen Tom DeLay and John Culbertson.

Metro officials claim that the new plan will be more cost effective and efficient, will get higher grades and therefore more funds from the Federal Transit Authority, and will put a more comprehensive area-wide system into operation at an earlier date than previous plans.

The main features of the “Phase 2 Implementation Plan of Metro Solutions” call for a new light rail line running east-west from the University of Houston to the Galleria; Heavy rail or Commuter Rail from the existing light rail termini to Fort Bend along US90, and to Northwest Houston along US290; and the substitution of “Bus Rapid Transit” for Light Rail on previously announced lines to Northline Mall, Harrisburg, and the Southeast.

This change in the light rail scheme has many local businesses and residents questioning why they are receiving less than previously promised.

However, Metro says that a BRT system will be built with separate rights-of-way, signalization similar to a train, express schedules, and cars that are similar to light rail, except that they run on rubber tires and use diesel or gasoline.

In addition, Metro says that rails will be installed in these guideways, and conversion in the future to light rail vehicles is feasible and actually in the long range plan.

Missing in the Phase 2 plan is any indication of a connection to either of the major airports by light rail or even BRT. This had been a major element in the Official Metro Solutions Plan, as voted on November 2003.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee organized a citizens forum last Saturday, at TSU, to meet with Metro officials and discuss the new plan. Many expressed frustration with both the changes, and the lack of timely communication from Metro officials. Rev. Bill Lawson typified Metro’s actions as a “slap in the face” to residents of the southeast area, who are actually the largest group of transit riders.

State Senator Mario Gallegos, representing North and Northeast Houston, said it was a matter of losing trust with Metro, and his constituency, when promises are not kept regarding light rail lines.

In a press release, Congresswoman Lee stated that “Many local stakeholders feel that the plan presented substantially differs from that which was the subject of the referendum.”

Congressman Green criticizes plan

Gets promise from Metro for rail lines


Washington, DC – Today Congressman Gene Green (TX-29) expressed concern over Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (Metro) revised Solutions Transit System Plan that was announced on Monday. Metro’s original November 2003 Referendum authorized a plan for the construction of four light rail routes throughout the City of Houston. The 2003 Referendum passed with a 52 percent vote.

“The necessary votes came from those that use public transportation the most,” said Congressman Green. “The north, east and south sides of Metro’s areas.”

“I am happy that Metro may receive Light Rail federal funding,” continued Congressman Green. “But we cannot ignore our transit user communities, which rely most heavily on public transportation to get to and from work and school. If you drive around Houston it’s as clear as night and day, when it comes to what areas of town use public transportation the most.”

The new plan would put train cars first on a route from the University of Houston across the city and ending at The Galleria. The rest of the lines (North, Harrisburg, Southeast) will receive Bus Rapid Transit, a train-like bus, that will then be replaced with light-rail.

Congressman Gene Green spoke with Metro Chairman David S. Wolff earlier today about his concerns with the new plan.

“Chairman Wolff has made a commitment to me, that the North Line and Harrisburg lines will not be left out of light rail,” said Congressman Green. “They will lay tracks as scheduled and through local and federal funds, we will get the train cars.”

“Chairman Wolff said that the UH-Galleria line is going to be the first line to get trains out of necessity by the Federal Transit Administration, not because of local politics,” said Congressman Green. “I will meet with the FTA in order to verify that.”

“The biggest problem with Metro is that they failed to inform the local elected officials of the details before they began acting as if it was agreed to,” continued Congressman Green. “Metro historically has a credibility problem with elected official and our constituents. I plan to meet with Metro leaders next week in Washington in order to get to the bottom of this.”

Know your Tenant Rights

My office receives quite a few calls from tenants who have disputes with their landlords. The complaints range from issues of health and safety to non-return of security deposits and lack of peace and quiet.

The most important part of your relationship with your landlord is your rental agreement, which you should always obtain in written form. Be sure to read the lease carefully before you sign it. If you want to change a part of the lease, discuss it with the landlord. He or she may be willing to make changes to the contract.

Texas law provides you with additional protection. The laws states that you have the right to “quiet enjoyment.” If other tenants in your building are disturbing you, you should complain to the landlord. The landlord has a duty to see that you are protected from other tenants wrongful behavior.

Except under certain circumstances, a landlord may not interrupt utilities to a tenant unless the interruption results from bona fide repairs, construction, or an emergency.

You have a right to demand repairs when a condition affects your health and safety. Under Texas law, by renting you the property, the landlord guarantees that the unit will be a fit place to live. The landlord does not have a duty to pay for or make repairs if you or your guests cause an unsafe or unhealthy condition through negligence, carelessness, abuse or accident.

A dwelling must be equipped with security devices such as window latches and keyed dead bolt locks on exterior doors. These devices must be installed at the landlord’s expense. If such devices are missing or are defective, you have the right to request their installation or repair. The landlord must also provide smoke detectors.

If the landlord won’t make repairs needed to protect your health, safety or security, and you follow the procedures required by law, you may be entitled to end the lease or have the problem repaired and deduct the cost of the repair from the rent. You could also file suit to force the landlord to make the repairs.

Send the landlord a certified letter outlining the needed repairs. Be sure that your rent is current when the notice is received.

Your landlord should make a diligent effort to repair the problem within a reasonable time. The law presumes seven days to be a reasonable time. If the landlord has not made a diligent effort to complete the repair within seven days and you did not have the first notice letter delivered to your landlord via certified mail, return receipt requested, or via registered mail, you will need to send a second notice letter.

If you receive a notice to vacate from your landlord, you do not have to move out of the unit by the date indicated in the notice. If you decide to stay, the landlord can then file an eviction suit with a local justice of the peace.

The landlord still cannot remove the tenant or the tenant’s property without a court order, except in the case of abandonment or when exercising a landlord’s lien. For example for non-payment of rent. After the landlord files the eviction suit, the court clerk will send the eviction citation to the Constable’s office for service to the tenant.

If you receive a citation, you should review it carefully. It will outline your rights. You will then have the opportunity to go before the justice of the peace to tell your side of the story. You do not need an attorney present, but it may be advisable for you to consult with one. If you lose, you still have the right to appeal the decision.

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POINTS TO REMEMBER

Tenant Rights

Read the Attorney General’s brochure, Overview of Tenant Rights

www.oag.state.tx.us

The Austin Tenants’ Council and the State Bar of Texas provide additional information on tenants’ rights, including brochures. You can contact those organizations as follows:

Austin Tenants’ Council
1619 E. Cesar Chavez Street
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 474-1961
www.housing-rights.org

State Bar of Texas
P.O. Box 12487
Austin, TX 78711
(800) 204-2222
www.texasbar.com

Information on this and other topics is available on the Attorney General’s Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us.

Hurricane season advice and fencing in the animals

Just think summer will be here officially next week and the beginning of hot weather. 

It is also hurricane season which officially began June 1st and runs through November. 

The Governor of Texas signed into law last week one giving local yokels the power to order mandatory evacuations for the first time in Texas.

Actually it gives mayors and county judges the power to issue evacuation orders for areas threatened by an oncoming hurricane.  I don’t like that, do you?

Come time for a hurricane to enter the Gulf, this ole boy has already been to buy a supply of water and rations for me and my pets, including the Mrs.  Both vehicles are gassed up and all of this is done well in advance before the stores are jammed. 

But then again some people don’t have the sense to know when to leave, and rescue workers have to put their lives on the line to rescue people who shouldn’t have still been there.

Finally got the fence rebuilt along the side of the house as well as a new wooden gate for the front.  Now the back fence is leaning and the next high wind may well bring it down also.  Lordy mercy, what’s next?

We didn’t have wooden fences back when I grew up in Georgia.  No need for them. 

There were woods separating the back of our house from the house way behind us.  Guess you could say that was our fence.

Out at my grand folk’s place on Liberty Hill Road, there was a barb wire fence around the entire property, except around the house.  That was to keep the cows and mules contained. 

The animals had the entire place to mosey around and about on with two streams providing clean drinking water.  My grandfather would round up the cows in the late afternoons for milking.  The old momma cow had a large bell on a chain around her neck, and with the two dogs; they were easily rounded up and headed back to the barn for some milking.

Pop would hear the bell clanking and holler for the cows that would follow him back to the barn.

Ma Pearl did the milking as did her brother Roland when he moved out there. 

Roland had been in the pen for a while and was brought out to the country to live with them.

The momma cow had a calf and Ma Pearl would let the calf suckle prior to her milking.  It was a challenge for Ma Pearl to pull the calf off the teat.  She would grab an ear and the tail and go at it trying to get the calf from its momma.  The momma cow would turn her head a bit and look see what was happening to her baby, then turn back into the feed box and continue to graze on the grain.

There was a separate fence around the hog pen that was down the hill.

An amazing aroma down in that area as it smelled like a pig pen. Oh, yes.

The pigs were called and they would come running. Suey Pig!

That reminds me of my sister calling from Maui, Hawaii last week. She said the hotel up graded their arrangements and put them up to the penthouse. A wonderful view of the area and all the amenities provided. Said they were laid up like a bunch of hogs.

Youth dies at park after soccer goal hits head

Houston police are investigating the accidental death of a child at 7900 Little York, in Trotter Park, about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 14.

The identity of the juvenile is Demarcus Jackson, 11. He suffered a severe head injury and was transported to Ben Taub General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

HPD Homicide Division Sergeants L. A. Flores and C. W. Howard reported:

The victim was playing on a soccer field goal when it toppled over on him causing severe blunt trauma to his forehead.

Since his death, city officials have instituted an inspection of all soccer goals to insure they are anchored. This park had been inspected withing the last 21 days, according to city officials. They suspect that someone added a goal to the park that was not properly anchored.

Carjacking on Airline ends in murder

Police are still looking for a man and woman who shot a teen Sunday morning during an attempted car jacking.

As Edwin Gonzalez Aguilar sat at a red light at Little York and Airline at about 1 a.m. Sunday, the couple forced their way into his red Jeep Grand Cherokee. The attackers forced Aguilar to drive to an abandoned lot in the 700 block of Lucky near Banjo. As per the couple’s instructions, Aguilar drove into the lot over 70 feet from the street.

The car jackers then shot Aguilar in the back. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

During the commotion, Aguilar’s 17-year old female cousin managed to escape unharmed and call for help.

The male car jacker is described as a black male between 33 and 38 years old, 6 feet tall, 245 pounds. He has a dark complexion, shaved head, and wore a gray muscle shirt and black jeans. The female is a little over 5 feet tall and between 20 and 25 years old with a dark complexion. Her hair is straight and was worn combed to the side. She wore a black shirt and pants, rings on both hands, and several bracelets on her right arm.

Anyone with information should contact the Houston Police Department’s Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

Aldine officials robbed at gunpoint after meeting

Two Aldine ISD school trustees were robbed at gun point in front of the district office late Monday night following a board meeting. At around midnight, trustees Steve Mead and Art Murillo were in the district parking lot discussing an up coming board training when two armed men surprised them from behind.

The men put a gun to their heads and demanded money. Murillo had forgotten his wallet at home, a mistake that the gunmen did not like. Mead, however, had recently cashed a check and was able to give the robbers a wad of cash.

“I had quite a bit of money on me. I normally don’t carry that much. I think the money saved me,” Mead said.

The gunmen then made Mead and Murillo lie on the ground.

“I thought I was dead. I really did,” Mead said.

However, the gunmen took off, leaving Mead and Murillo shaken but unharmed.

The robbers are described as two black males between the ages of 19 and 23. One man is about 5’10”, 165 pounds, with a light complexion. The other man had a du-rag on his head.

At about the same time that evening in the same general vicinity there were two other robberies. Detectives are investigating to see if the three incidents were possibly related. As of yet, no positive connections have been made.

Before Monday night, the AISD district office did not have security officers present at the evening meetings. This incident has made clear the need for peace officers.

“We have security now,” Mead said.

Mead said that after a frightening robbery, many people become hard-hearted.

“I don’t want to be that way,” he said. “It makes me think: Did he go to school? Did he graduate?”

He said that some people who have heard his story say that there is no hope for the current generation.

“I hope that’s not true,” he said. “There are still a lot of good kids who come out of school and do good.”

Since this experience, Mead is more convinced that today’s male youth need positive role models and guidance.

“I don’t know what the solution is,” he said. “I’m just trying to do my part.”