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Posts published in December 2006

Suspect arrested in death of Humble “Good Samaritan”

Police arrested a suspect in the shooting death of Steven Jackson who authorities termed a “Good Samaritan” after he followed a thief in a gas station hold up.

Police believe Keith Hines, 40, robbed several gas stations and shot Jackson. Hines is charged with capital murder and two charges of aggravated robbery. Police believe Hines is responsible for a string of gas station robberies that began in September. He was caught after an anonymous tipster identified Hines from photos taken from a surveillance camera during one of the robberies. The anonymous caller will collect $20,500 in reward money from Crime Stoppers.
Hines was already on parole for two charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle in 1987. He was sentenced to 45 years and was on parole until 2035.
Hines worked for Access and Road Service Unlimited where he helped stranded motorists.
Hines was arrested without resistance at his home in Kingslake Forest off Beltway 8 where he lived with his girlfriend.

6th Annual Academy Basketball Tourney

Aldine ISD’s M.O. Campbell Center will play host to the Academy National Invitational Tournament for the sixth consecutive year, slated Dec. 27-30.

The tournament will feature some of the top teams from across the nation and Texas, including Aldine Senior High and one of the state’s top players in Gary Johnson, a 6-foot-7 forward who recently signed with the University of Texas.
USA Today has tabbed the Academy Invitational “arguably the nation’s best top-to-bottom event.”
The National Division includes three of USA Today’s top four-rated teams in the country as Norcross (Georgia), ranked No. 2, DeMatha (Maryland), ranked No. 3, and St. Patrick’s (New Jersey), ranked No. 4 make up part of that bracket. The five other teams in the National Division will be Christ the King of New York (ranked No. 21), Kingwood (ranked No. 23), Alief Hastings, Rainier Beach (Washington) and Rice (New York).
The Texas Division will consist of Aldine Senior High, Bellaire, Klein Collins, Houston Madison, Strake Jesuit, The Woodlands, Westbury Christian and Houston Yates.

Sconzo named Texas nominee for 2007 National Superintendent of the Year

Humble ISD Superintendent Dr. Guy Sconzo has been chosen to represent Texas in the 2007 National Superintendent of the Year Program. A Texas Association of School Administrators committee selected Dr. Sconzo for the honor based upon the criteria of leadership for learning, communication, professionalism and community involvement.

As the state nominee, Dr. Sconzo will be honored in March during the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education in New Orleans. A national winner will be announced at that time. The program is co-sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators and ARAMARK.
“Dr. Sconzo is indeed most worthy to be named National Superintendent of the Year,” Johnny L. Veselka, executive director for the Texas Association of School Administrators, said.
Dr. Sconzo has been Humble ISD superintendent since 2001 and has more than 30 years of experience in education. During his tenure with Humble ISD, voters have approved $572 million in school facility bonds and the district has opened four new elementary schools and a new high school. Humble ISD has grown by more than 6,000 students. Continued growth and additional schools are planned for the future.
Dr. Sconzo is known for his inclusive working style, rapport with teachers, students, parents and community members, and tireless work ethic.
“He goes far beyond what might be expected of any superintendent,” Dr. Bonnie Longnion, president of the Humble ISD Board of Trustees, said. “He is at his desk every morning at 6 a.m. sending out communications to the board, community, and employees. He responds to every e-mail that he receives. He makes multiple visits to each school. He knows almost every employee by name, and he addresses them by name.”
As an effective communicator, Dr. Sconzo was one of four superintendents in the state chosen to testify in a landmark school finance case. His local community involvement includes serving as Humble Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman, Flaming Arrow District of the Boy Scouts of America Chairman and Northeast Medical Center Hospital Board Member. He also is a past member of the Lake Houston Family YMCA Advisory Board.
“I am deeply honored and humbled to be the state nominee,” Dr. Sconzo said. “This award reflects on everyone. My work would be meaningless if it weren’t for the teachers and staff members who strive every day to help students learn and grow, and for the parents and community members who strongly support education.”
Before coming to Humble ISD, Dr. Sconzo served as interim superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools. He also has been an associate superintendent, middle school principal and English teacher. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Wagner College, a master’s degree from New York University and a Ph.D. from Ohio State University. He and his wife, Diane, have two grown children, Michael and Jennifer.

North Forest ISD bookkeeper found ‘Not Guilty’ of check fraud

A jury of her peers found Valerie Gibson, 47, not guilty of involvement in a check-cashing scheme that stole more than a quarter million dollars from North Forest ISD.

Gibson was a bookkeeper in North Forest ISD when she and three others were charged with fraud after three North Forest checks were stolen, written out to a fake company, and cashed in Las Vegas. Last year, the other three defendants pleaded guilty to theft and face up to life in prison. Two of them have been sentenced now that the trial against Gibson is complete. Gibson was the only defendant who pleaded not guilty.
During the two-week trial, prosecutors claimed that Gibson’s motive for stealing the money was to pay for an expensive house and furniture. Her position in the district’s financial office gave her the opportunity.
But jurors say the testimony of fellow defendant Cynthia Bailey was not credible. The jury deliberated for 15 hours over two days. At one point, the jury told the judge they were deadlocked. But after a weekend to reflect, the jury reconvened and found Gibson not guilty because there was a reasonable doubt.
Investigator John Kleindienst recovered one-third of the stolen money, about $90,000 from a bank account in Las Vegas. That money goes back to the school district.

Macedonia, Jed’s lead holiday cheer with gifts of food, toys to families in need

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– Hundreds of needy families in this area will have a happier Christmas, thanks to the efforts of the Macedonia Outreach organization, Jed’s Home Center, and many other sponsoring companies.

Last Saturday these groups got together to give food, toys, and computers to needy families that signed up with Macedonia to receive help at this holiday season.
Sponsors included Macedonia Outreach Center, Jed’s Home Center, Houston Food Bank, I-45 Signs, NHG Chamber of Commerce, North Houston Bank, Aldine Improvement District, North Houston Frontiers, Saturn, Randy Fine Foods, Chevron, Technology For All, Mattco, Schlumberger, VM Direct, Nabors Industries, Geico, and First Continental Bank.
The event included a raffle, with two computers awarded to Shantelle McPherson and Maria Carreon, and many special toys given away to families.
Another feature of the day was the participation by retired Harlem Globetrotters, who signed autographs and helped distribute the food packages.
The distribution was held in the parking lot of Jed’s Home Center on Aldine Mail Route.
Other features of the day included face painting by Macedonia Outreach, and Jed’s Clyde Bailey distributing popcorn all during the event.
Macedonia director Kathy West thanked all in the community that helped bring holiday joy to families in need.

Tacky Christmas present ideas

This is the finale for Two Cents Worth and 2006, hope you enjoyed the previous ones.
So, have you got all your Christmas shopping done and bought tacky gifts for those you do not care for?

Proper etiquette calls for a thank you to the gift giver and a smile on your behalf. Once it’s all said and done, donate the item to the Rotary for its annual auction come February.
We received an electric skillet from a relative who had been recently married. Inside the skillet was a card to them from whomever gave it to them. At least it’s something that is used in this house.
The Mrs. received a cordless iron one year from me but mind you…it was per her request as she wanted one.
My ole buddy Ruby told me her Jim had given her a box of kitchen items one year and added, “The damn box is still in the garage too.”
Had mentioned to my sister what I got the Mrs. this year for Christmas and older sister said, “I’d stick it up your &$$ too.”
How about a baseball hat with a fake pony tail out the back?
How about a used vacuum cleaner?
Another bud says he request money, give me money. Said he’s very picky, odd to fit and it is hard to please as a stick in the mud. His 60th birthday is coming in January and being a diabetic, guess he’ll receive something sweet from his bud in Texas.
How about a T-shirt with a Unicorn on it from a convenience store with the price tag attached?
How would you like a year’s subscription to this newspaper?
One gal said she received a six months supply of diet pills and the $200 for them showed up on her credit card.
Another said she received a “Lighthouse” cookie jar that once opened; it made the sound of a fog horn and scared the liver out of you.
Ain’t no joke, I received a chunk of coal one year, boxed and gift wrapped.
One said she received a paper shredder for Christmas. Said she should have used it on their marriage license.
Of course some say underwear is the worst Christmas present, but I look forward to some new drawers each year.
Some really tacky gift suggestions include: Beano, adult diapers, a back shaver, nose hair trimmer, rectal cleansing pads, menopause pills, and a pair of socks.
Just think about it for ten more days and you’ll find out if you’ve been naughty or nice.
Merry Christmas.
Adios

NFL contenders hope Santa is good to them this weekend

‘Tis the week before Christmas, and all through the land, visions of playoff berths are swirling in many an NFL players head!
Yes, the Jolly Fat Man is about to deliver his goods on Christmas Day, but NFL players and coaches know what they want this year: a playoff berth.

This is also a great weekend for NFL fans, as eight games on the docket have playoff implications, which should make your holiday viewing all the more enjoyable.
Before we take a look at this week’s pivotal schedule, I want to wish each and everyone one of you a joyous and happy holiday season and want thank you for allowing me to write this weekly column. I hope I have provided you with some insight into the game, and a chuckle or two this season (OK, some may say my picks have been a joke, but let’s remember, it is THAT time of year, so be nice!). Last week’s 4-4 record brought the season record to 96-61 (63 percent) and with time running out on the season, it’s time to make a big finish.
NFL
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: The Ravens will probably enter this game having already wrapped up the AFC North title (they played the hapless Browns last Sunday needing one game to win the division), but Baltimore can still earn a first-round bye by winning out, coupled with an Indianapolis loss. These two teams despise one another, so expect a heated affair on Christmas Eve. The Ravens brutalized quarterback Ben Rothlisberger in their first meeting, which resulted in a 27-0 Ravens win, so look for the Steelers to be in payback mood this time around. Pittsburgh is its best football of the season and would like nothing more than to send the Ravens packing with a loss. My pick, Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 21
Cincinnati at Denver: Two teams heading in the opposite direction go at it in Denver as the surging Bengals take on the plummeting Broncos in a game that is crucial to both team’s playoff chances. Cincinnati is finally healthy and that has resulted in a late-season run to a Wild Card berth. Quarterback Carson Palmer once again looks confident under center and has guided his team to four straight wins heading into last Monday’s showdown at Indianapolis. Denver, on the other hand, has dropped four straight and appears destined to be watching the playoffs from home this year. Look for more big plays from Palmer and for running back Rudi Johnson to continue to chew up big chunks of yardage. Rookie quarterback Jay Cutler is improving, but a finally healthy Cinci defense may be too much for him to handle this week. My pick, Cincinnati 27, Denver 24
Indianapolis at Houston: There are now three certainties in life: death, taxes and the Colts winning against the Texans. Houston has never defeated Indianapolis in its five year existence and don’t expect that streak to end on Sunday in Reliant Stadium. The Colts need this game and will not look past even the Texans. Indy has struggled the last few weeks, but look for Peyton Manning and Co. to fire on all cylinders as they wrap up the AFC South with a relative easy win over the Texans. This could very well be David Carr’s swansong in Houston. It’s time for a change of scenery. My pick, Indianapolis 31, Houston 13
New England at Jacksonville: The suddenly surging Jaguars host the Patriots in a key game for both teams. The Jags’ running game continues to gain steam and wear down foes as they make a late-season run for a Wild Card berth, while the Pats have found that things aren’t as easy as they used to be when they were dominating the league a couple of years ago. NE quarterback Tom Brady looked confused two weeks ago in his team’s 21-0 loss at Miami, but look for him to bounce back this week as he starts leaning on his tight ends to make plays in the passing game. Brady will need to establish the pass because the Jags are tough to run against. When Jacksonville has the ball, the Pats will get a steady dose of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Those two ran wild against the Colts two weeks ago as each rushed in excess of 100 yards in their 44-17 route of Indy. This should be a tight game, with the edge going to Brady and his big-game experience. My pick, New England 23, Jacksonville 20
Tennessee at Buffalo: Guess that Vince Young kid CAN play a bit, right Texans’ front office? I still can’t get over that one! VY takes his magic to Orchard Park as the Titans look to continue their second-half run against a Buffalo team that has also been playing well down the stretch. The Bills dampened the Jets’ playoff chances two weeks ago with a 31-13 win at the Meadowlands as running back Willis McGahee ran over and through the New York defense. This should be a fun game to watch at both teams have opened up their offense in the second half of the season. Look for Young to turn more heads as he takes his act to upstate New York as the Titans look to close the year with a .500 record. My pick, Tennessee 27, Buffalo 25
Carolina at Atlanta: This is a big game for both teams as each clings on to their post-season lives. The Panthers are perhaps the biggest underachieving team this year. They entered the year with Super Bowl aspirations, but due to lackluster play at quarterback and on defense, they are in danger of not even earning a Wild Card spot. The Falcons, on the other hand, have righted the ship and are back in the playoff hunt. A year ago, Carolina rode into Atlanta and left with a convincing win in the final week of the season to qualify for the playoffs. Look for the tables to be turned this time around as Michael Vick uses his arms and legs to keep the Falcons alive in the Wild Card hunt. My pick, Atlanta 26, Carolina 21
New Orleans at New York Giants: It’s apparent the Saints are no fluke, as evidenced by their 42-17 win at Dallas two weeks ago. They face another stern road test this week when they visit a Giants team whose playoff chances are on life support. New York received a boost with its 27-13 win at Carolina two weeks ago to end their four-game losing skid. There should be plenty of offense in this one as Saints QB Drew Brees continues his assault on the single-season passing mark set by Dan Marino in 1984. It also helps that Reggie Bush is making big plays, giving Brees one more weapon with which to work. Look for Bush to have a big game playing in the media center of the world. New York quarterback Eli Manning looks like he’s playing better as well and would like nothing more than to defeat his hometown team (Eli grew up in New Orleans and his father and mother still reside there). Expect plenty of points in this one, but it says here the Saints magical season continues as they make one more play than the Giants do to pull this one out. My pick, New Orleans 33, New York 31
San Diego at Seattle: A good intra division showdown as LaDanian Tomlinson and mates travel to Starbucks Land to take on a Seattle team that has been up and down this year. The Seahawks suffered an embarrassing 27-21 loss at Arizona two weeks ago and want to start getting in playoff mode, so expect head coach Mike Holmgren to have them ready to play. They need to give Shaun Alexander plenty of work since he has missed so much time with a broken foot, but going up against San Diego’s stout front seven won’t be a walk in the park. Look for more of Tomlinson as he tries to put the season-season touchdown record out of reach. It’s conceivable that LT could have 30-plus touchdowns before the season is through. That’s amazing when you think about it. Even though the Chargers have already won the AFC West, they need to win out to secure home field advantage for the AFC playoffs. Seattle has also secured its division, but could earn a first-round bye is New Orleans slips down the stretch. Look for a competitive contest here, with Tomlinson being the difference maker for San Diego. My pick, San Diego 30, Seattle 28
Philadelphia at Dallas: Two weeks ago, the Cowboys had things in hand, and then came the Saints debacle. Now, they must come through with a win over the Eagles to wrap up the NFC East title and hold off a Philadelphia team that has gained confidence since its come-from-behind win over Carolina two weeks ago. One thing is for certain: If the Dallas defense does not play better than it has in the last three weeks, it won’t matter how the season ends because their stay in the playoffs will be short lived. On offense, the Cowboys need to continue to pound the football to give quarterback Tony Romo the space and time he needs to set up the passing game. Romo has looked like the undrafted free agent he was coming out of college in recent weeks, rather than the next Tom Brady. Defensively, Dallas must get a pass rush against the elusive Jeff Garcia, who has found new life since taking over for Donovan McNabb. The Cowboys also need to contain Bryan Westbrook if they hope to deliver a big present to their fans on Christmas afternoon. It says here they will. My pick, Dallas 26, Philadelphia 20

Habitat building new homes in Northeast neighborhoods

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER) employees are partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build a home from the ground up over a five-week period in Northeast Houston, giving a working Houston family the opportunity to finally call a home their own after being forced to relocate after the Gulf Coast storm disasters. This is the first year that Greater Houston Merrill Lynch is working with Habitat for Humanity. The Greater Houston offices raised more than $26,000 through donations for the home, and Merrill Lynch Corporate matched that amount for a total donation of $52,000 to Houston Habitat for Humanity.

Before the Gulf Storms of 2005, one in 10 Houston working families was in need of affordable housing. Now those numbers have compounded because more than 30,000 people were forced into Houston from Louisiana. The home being built by Greater Houston Merrill Lynch will help Houston Habitat for Humanity to exceed their milestone goal to build 1,000 homes by the end of 2007, as part of “Operation Home Delivery” – a collaboration of Habitat for Humanity International launched in response to the recovery efforts near the Gulf Coast.
“Greater Houston Merrill Lynch is excited and proud to partner with Habitat for Humanity to better the life of a working Houston family that was affected by the Gulf Coast storms,” said Janet Caylor, Greater Houston Regional Managing Director of Merrill Lynch’s Global Private Client Group. “As a global company built on local relationships, Merrill Lynch believes the principle of responsible, caring citizenship is essential to the prosperity and vitality of Greater Houston.”
Merrill Lynch Houston employees have contributed to Habitat for Humanity the past several months through office fundraisers, and will be dedicating their time and efforts to build the new Habitat for Humanity home at 11727 Greenmesa in the Greensbrook Subdivison, which is located in an unincorporated area of Harris County.
ABOUT HOUSTON HABITAT FOR HUMANITY:
Houston Habitat for Humanity is a not-for-profit organization that provides new homes for hard-working, low-income Houstonians who otherwise would not be able to afford a mortgage. The organization provides zero-interest loans to first-time homebuyers who partner with volunteers and sponsors to build their own homes in neighborhoods throughout Houston and Harris County. In addition, Houston Habitat operates a Habitat for Humanity ReStore six days a week at 6161 South Loop East at South Wayside Drive where homeowners, remodelers and contractors can find high-quality building materials and fixtures and furniture at deeply discounted prices. All proceeds from purchases at the store benefit Houston Habitat for Humanity.
For more information about Houston Habitat for Humanity, its affordable housing sponsorship and its volunteer opportunities, visit www.houston habitat.org or call (713) 671-9993.

NHG Chamber hears Houston Airport System’s future plans

The head of the 4th largest airport system in the nation, and the 6th in the world, is one description of Rick Vacar that the members of the NHGreenspoint Chamber heard at November’s luncheon.
Vacar is also a pilot, having flown 4400 hours, so he knows quite a bit about airports. He told the luncheon guests about the successes of the Houston Airport System’s 3 airports, and future plans for growth and expansion to meet the inevitable pressures of more flights.

Currently the HAS handles about 55,000,000 passengers per year, and is projected to need to handle 80,000,000 by the year 2010. HAS has 3 airports, Bush Intercontinental, Hobby, and Ellington. The latter no longer had scheduled commercial flights, but is busy with government and private aircraft, Vacar said.
HAS has a budget of $400 million per year, which is gained from concessions, parking and airplane landing fees. That money generates about $30 billion in economic activity in the city, according to Vacar.
Expansion at IAH will include two new runways parallel to the current north runways. Long term plans call for improvements at IAH totalling $5 billion, and at Hobby $1.2 billion. At IAH the current 115 gates will increase to 225. Hobby will eventually have 5 runways. Ellington will expand with 3 national guard units moving from the city to the field.
At IAH, the long range Master Plan, through 2025, is looking at new terminal buildings to replace A and B, perhaps as many as 5, in a style similar to Atlanta’s terminals.
Parking is another consideration at the airports, but Vacar said that there are now 20,000 parking spots at IAH, and they generate significant revenue.

Groundbreaking takes place for Tasfield project

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– Groundbreaking ceremonies took place on Nov. 8, for a demonstration project to improve water and sewer service to about 96 homes on Vivian, 3 sisters, and Nuggent Streets.
The Aldine Improvement District, with City, County and federal help will cooperate on a new sewer construction project. This demonstration project may be followed by at least 11 other areas in the Aldine Improvement District service area.

Tasfield was chosen for the project because no sewer service was available, and a large number of septic systems were failing, according to David Hawes, of Aldine Improvement District. The Tasfield neighborhood is near the intersections of US59 and Little York. The area borders the city of Houston, and homeowners will be eligible to get city sewer service after the construction. Residents will pay about $15 a month to join the city system. Water currently is provided by Aquatech to homes.
Because residents qualify under HUD income limits, a HUD grant was available for $850,000 for construction. The Aldine I.D. is contributing about $200,000 to the project.
The Aldine district is now studying an additional neighborhood for this type of improvement – North Houston Heights. They have approved an engineering study of $350,000 to continue the planning work.
Work on these projects is now conducted through the Aldine Water and Sewer Authority.