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Posts published in March 2008

State begins program to replace old polluting cars

HARRIS COUNTY– The State of Texas has introduced a new program to replace older vehicles. The program LIRAP will reduce the number of vehicles contributing to air pollution in counties that are not meeting the Federal clean air standards.
“The main goal of the program will be to provide financial incentives torepair or replace older, polluting automobiles with newer automobilesthat have a lower level of emissions,” said Rep. Kevin Bailey. “The Legislature appropriated funding in the last legislative session to help accelerate the replacement of the older, dirtier vehicles that are major contributors to air pollution. New light duty vehicles operate over 98% cleaner than the average car or truck built prior to 1991. The older vehicles that are failing to meet emission standards need to be replaced.”
According to the state, the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria areas of the State of Texas do not currently meet air quality standards for ozone, and the largest contributor to the formation of ozone in these two regions are mobile resources, such as personal automobiles and diesel engines found in construction equipment.
Because federal law precludes state regulation of emissions from these sources, the State of Texas has developed the Low-Income Vehicle Repair Assistance, Retrofit, and Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program (LIRAP), aimed at reducing these emissions. Another state program will be designed to affect diesel engines, while LIRAP is intended to lessen emissions from personal automobiles. Currently, Texas does not meet federal air quality standards effective in 2010.
“Guidelines for the new program will be released after the first of the year,” said . Bailey. “Eligibility will be limited to older vehicles registered in counties that are currently having trouble complying with the federal air quality standards. The vehicle must have been registered in the county for at least the past 12 months.”
If you would like additional information on the program, contact the office of State Representative Kevin Bailey at 281-847-9000.
–Article by Arlene Nichols

North Forest group asks Governor Perry to replace school board

By Gilbert Hoffman
NORTH FOREST– A group of about 40 persons from the North Forest area travelled to Austin last Thursday, to publicly protest educational conditions in the North Forest school district, and to meet with Governor Perry’s staff to present a petition to replace the board.
Later in the day, the governor issued a statement indicating “he was confident in TEA’s efforts to ensure that every student deserves the opportunity to learn and succeed, as is the case in North Forest. However at a point in time, the commissioner of education has the authority, and I think the responsibility, to step in if there has been a failure to educate the children in an appropriate manner.”
NEEF indicated to the Northeast News, in an interview after the meeting, that the group will meet again and plans to continue in their efforts.
After contentious school board meetings over the last few months, and warnings to the district by the Texas Education Agency that their accreditation is pending and perhaps at risk, citizens in North Forest have issued a press release directed toward Governor Rick Perry.
The intention is to get the TEA to act to replace the present school board and bring the problems to a quicker resolution than is presently occuring.
The Text of the Press Release, with some editing, is as follows:

What: Protect and Save Our Children not the North Forest School Board.
The Community calls for Governor Perry and TEA to establish a Board of Managers for North Forest ISD.
Evidence of the need for a board of managers in North Forest ISD:
• $5+ million budget deficit, $7.3 million owed to TEA, & a $17 million projected deficit for the end of this fiscal year
• Failure of North Forest ISD Board of Trustees to identify a competent superintendent for the school district. The district has operated for a year without a superintendent. The Board of Trustees has failed to attract a superintendent with a track record for success. Instead, the board spent $9,200 on a national search only to attempt to rehire the superintendent fired by the board a year ago. During the former superintendent’s tenure 8 out of 11 schools were academically unacceptable, ADA was grossly overstated for 2 consecutive years, & several false or erroneous multi-million dollar accounting entries were made contributing to the district’s financial decline.
• Failure of North Forest ISD Board of Trustees to protect the needs of students in Special Education resulting in TEA’s assignment of an academic conservator.
• Failure of North Forest ISD Board of Trustees to make appropriate financial decisions after a year of support from TEA’s financial conservator.
The Community’s approach to solving the problem:
The community recognizes that they must become a partner with the educational authorities to ensure that the education of the children in North Forest becomes a priority. Given the failure of local authorities, the community seeks the aid of state authorities to ensure student education. Specifically, the community requests a board of managers as permitted under Subchapter G. Accreditation Sanctions 39.131. Sanctions for Districts subsection b.
(b) This subsection applies regardless of whether a district has satisfied the accreditation criteria. If for a period of one year or more a district has had a conservator or management team assigned, the commissioner may appoint a board of managers, a majority of whom must be residents of the district, to exercise the powers and duties of the board of trustees.
We deserve better…..
Northeast Education First is a community-based movement to ensure that northeast Houston school districts, and in particular North Forest ISD, provide a high quality education for children. The initiative recognizes that the NF children are trapped in schools that do not educate and that the community must play a role in resolving this crisis.
It is focused on the community creating expectations of student performance, the community understanding how the students currently compare to high performing students in the state, the community understanding the reform options that can deliver the quality education, and the educational authorities building confidence in the community that proposed reform solutions will work.
The Initiative is made up of the following community groups:
The Initiative includes: Northeast Beyond 2000/GHDI; Super Neighborhood 47 – E. Little York/Homestead; Super Neighborhood 48 – Trinity/Houston Gardens; Super Neighborhood 49/50 – E. Houston/Settegast.
Partners of the Initiative embrace this new approach to involve the community in finding a solution including:
State Rep. Harold Dutton, Council Member Jarvis Johnson, former Trustees Albert Coleman, Fran Gentry, Maxine Seals, and Mae Sikes.
Northeast Education First – is a group of concerned community leaders, business leaders, ministers, parents, residents, and students who are committed to ensuring that the children of North Forest AND Northeast Houston receive the education that they need and so DESERVE.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL 832.731.6662.

Harris Academy librarian named SHSU Distinguished Educator

ALDINE— Harris Academy Librarian Dixie Allen has been named the Sam Houston State University’s Distinguished Educator of the Year for her role as a support professional in a school setting.
Allen was recognized for her outstanding contributions not only at Harris Academy but also in the Aldine school district and Texas Library Association.
“Dixie serves as a magnificent librarian at Harris Academy and has an innate love for children and literature,” said Dr. Margaret Byrd, Area Superintendent for the Carver Vertical in Aldine. “She possesses a kind, maternal nature and gracefully entwines the use of books and literature to enrich our young children’s minds.”
The awards banquet offered a grand opportunity to recognize Dixie along with the four other recipients who were recognized for their work as classroom teachers, administrators, and community support.
The entire Library Science Department was there to cheer Allen on along with her family, her Principal Kathy Bacy, retired Principal Connie Leday and her husband Frederick.
In addition, Aldine Superintendent Dr. Wanda Bamberg and a healthy contingent from Central Office came in recognition of Dr. Jamie Bryson, Director of Financial Services, who received the Administrator Award the same evening.

East Aldine District hears reports

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– At their regular public monthly meeting, held last Tuesday March 18 at 7 p.m., directors of the East Aldine Management District hear reports on the following business:
Water Rate Increase
Resident of Castlewood subdivision Steven Adame told the board that 325 homes in his area were expecting a 50% increase in their water bills from Suburban Utilities. He said that the utility had not made state mandated improvements to the system, and that a hearing on the increase was scheduled for April 4th in Austin.
Identity Signage
Executive Director David Hawes said that the district had been working with TxDot, and expected two signs identifying the District to be erected soon on the Hardy Toll Road, telling the public that they could exit into the District. This is only the first of a total Identity package that is planned to be implemented this year.
Public Safety grant
For several years the EAMD has teamed with the Airline and Greenspoint districts in a program to stop auto thefts. This program includes additional police that conduct surveilllance and decoy autos in high crime areas, and has been very effective in arrests of this type of crime. In 2007 this unit ran 1218 investigations, and recovered $1,665,357 in the Aldine district alone.
Water and Sewer

Progress is being made on implementing new utilities in several areas, Hawes reported. EAMD recently met with the state TCEQ agency to further work on grants that will bring new water and sewer lines into the area. Bonds will be issued in the next few months, so that work can start on the North Houston Heights project.
At a special meeting that was held on March 4th, the board approved the funding arrangement with Harris County, to proceed on water and sewer in North Houston Heights. The commitment from the EAMD will amount to $2,800,000. It is anticipated that the new system will be operated by Sunbelt Fresh Water Supply District for the East Aldine District.
In addition, a resolution was passed by the board, authorizing the sale of up to $20,000,000 in bonds, to fund additional improvement projects to be determined later.
Director of Services
It was reported that Mike Ledbetter, current Director of Services for the district, and the person that most citizens interface with in the district’s offices at 5202 Aldine Mail Route, has resigned and will leave the district in the next 90 days. The district will seek a qualified replacement as soon as possible, Hawes reported. The candidate must have economic skills, an outgoing and aggressive personality, and a knowledge of the area, he said.
Budget surplus
The financial report for the month of February continued the trend toward sales tax collection exceeding expectations and budgets. For February, the collections were approximately $252,000, in sales tax revenue, and $12,000 in interest, which was put in the general fund.
Public Nuisances
Board member Reyes Garcia questioned Hawes on what action has been taken on several areas on concern to local residents. On the ordinance to regulate Taco stands, Hawes reported that no enforcement action has been taken, because the County must formulate rules and this has not yet been done. Reyes also said that a noise ordinance was needed, and enforcement, but Hawes noted that this is a matter for the legislature and no action on this item has been taken over several sessions. Additionally, he said that some of the problem comes from after hours bars, but that it is extremely difficult to policethis situation.
Grants Committee
At the last meeting, grants were approved for the following: Aldine YOUTH Business Works! program $40,100; YMCA Aldine-Greenspoint, for the Growing Strong Kids after school program, $55,000; Hinojosa Public Fountain project, $3,000; Boy Scouts, camp scholarships and personnel expenses, $7,500; and Aldine Scholarship Foundation, $15,000 for annual endowment of this college scholarship program.

Old habits are hard to break

Old habits are hard to break but my ordering water with lemon days are over after reading an article backed up by Snopes.com.
A study by a New Jersey microbiologist found nasty bacteria in two-thirds of the lemons tested in over 20 places to eat.
Long story short, high levels of fectal bacteria were detected on the lemon wedges being sliced. Who ever heard of a restaurant washing a lemon before slicing?
Besides, some restaurants slice lemons on cutting blocks meat or poultry was cut on or they used the same knife. Health laws require waiters and waitresses to use gloves or tongs. It is common practice and a lot faster to simply pop the lemon wedge into your drink with bare hands.
I started ordering lemon with water after tasting the water from a restaurant in my hometown in Georgia. One would have thought I ordered a glass or water with a shot of Clorox.
Think about it next time you order a slice of lemon with fecal bacteria in your drink.

Must have a straw too.
This article is writ without using the Mrs. moral conscious because she is above the Mason Dixon Line visiting the newest grandson (Jakob Lee) in the Keystone State. That is Pennsylvania in case you did not get it.
Anyway, she proofs each and every article, some of which she deletes entire paragraphs with red ink telling me I cannot say this and that. Plus a lot of the red is corrections to my spelling.
Since she has been gone, I have been bad. Bought potato chips, ice cream and been in the red too. Life is good
Conversations prove interesting in a circle of friends telling their tales.
One banker said he had to foreclose on a house that was fresh built. After all the legal mumbo jumbo stuff he had to go through to get the house back, the house was finally sold to an individual without taking too big of a hickey on the deal.
Low and behold and the opening of a can of worms.
Seems as though the plumbing would not work, come to find out the line was filled with concrete by the repossesse.
From inside the house, the line was replaced and in addition to the problem, the line went under the concrete driveway.
Stories and tales like that are interesting and cautions should be taken.
Heard one about a home loan to an individual that had a substantial down payment, which would be used first to build the house, and after the funds were exhausted, the lender would step in and start lending on the project.
The borrower came to the lender and requested an advance or a draw on the loan.
The lender ordered a slab survey to make sure the slab was where it was suppose to be.
Good lord, the slab was poured on the lot next door and the house was over 75% complete.
Attempts to buy the lot with the slab and almost completed house were unsuccessful.
Ouch!

North Forest ISD and State clash over Superintendent vote

By Gilbert Hoffman
NORTH FOREST– The North Forest board, in a special called meeting last Saturday, voted in a short meeting to eliminate one high school and one elementary in an effort to get the finances of the district under control. The move recognizes the fact that the student population has declined greatly in recent years, helping to create the financial burden that the district is trying to resolve.
Previously, in a dramatic meeting last Monday March 10th, the North Forest ISD school board had voted 4-3 to rehire Dr. James Simpson as the Superintendent of the district. Immediately following that vote, state TEA representatives spoke to nullify the action. The board’s vote came in spite of warnings from Texas Education Agency representative Ron Rowell that the vote was overridden by the authority of the state, and had no legal status.
Members of the board all evening had hurled criticism at the TEA and its representatives, Henry Boening and Ron Rowell, who are present in North Forest as overseers for the state TEA.

The vote was seen as a defiance of the state’s intervention in the district, which faces financial and academic problems that it might not be able to solve on it’s own. Rowell cautioned that the district had been placed on an Academic Accreditation PENDING status, which could lead to more serious sanctions and even dissolution. After tempers flared, the sides cooled and agreed to have their attorneys meet to discuss the legal standing of the vote.
However, TEA’s Rowell closed the meeting with the notice that Simpson was not the new superintendent.
At Saturday’s meeting, the parties were more cordial and cooperative. However, only 5 of the board were present. Trustees Williams and Provost were absent for the discussion and vote.
Two motions were presented, namely to combine high schools into one, and to combine Tidwell and Hilliard elementaries into one. In each case the five members present voted unanimously in favor of the recommendations that had been presented at the last two meetings by interim superintendent William Jones.
After the meeting, TEA representative Ron Rowell expressed his approval of the action. “This is a step in the right direction, although much work is still to be done.”
This was a reference to the fact that the board did not vote on any reduction of the staff at this meeting. Although Jones had presented plans for cutting up to 200 staff members in the school consolidation plans, the board preferred not to act on this item until the next meeting, which is now scheduled for Tuesday night, March 25.
In a surprise move that differed from Monday’s plans, superintendent Jones said that he now felt that the combined high school should be housed in the present Smiley High School campus, because it has more facilities and more land. However, he acknowledged that some repair work is needed to get that building ready for use, and in the mean time he feels that Forest Brook could be occupied on a temporary basis.
Assistant Superintendent Paul Johnson told the Northeast News that a rough estimate to refurbish Smiley was about $6 million, and that the construction funds from the previous bond issue had about $13 million available, so this work was feasible economically. However, this money was previously designated for Kirby middle school renovations, so more decisions are obviously due.
Trustee Albert Lemons spoke about the pressing need for one good high school, to symbolize the progress of the district, and he also suggested that one good middle school would suffice. He suggested that this might end up being housed in the Forest Brook building.
Trustees McCall and Lemons called for a new name for the high school, with input from the public and students, and to serve as a symbol of a “new beginning” for North Forest.
Asst. Superintendent Carl Williams indicated the he and TEA’s Henry Boening had determined that the district could probably recover another $2.8 million from FEMA, helping to ease the deficit that the district faces, which currently stands at about $17.2 million. A total of $9 million would then be due from FEMA, when all the paperwork is finished, Boening indicated, narrowing the deficit that the district must make up by the start of classes in August.

Lone Star College System sets $420M Bond vote in May

By BOBBY HORN JR.
Citing a need for new instructional facilities and infrastructure upgrades, the Lone Star College System will ask its patrons to approve $420 million in bonds.
The election will be held May 10.
The lion’s share of the bond package will be $262.4 million for instructional facilities. Another $44.2 million has been set aside for student service facilities. Among these are performing arts facilities and a second University Center.
According to demographers the college system will grow to 80,000 students by 2015.

College officials said that one area of interest is health sciences. The field, they say, suffers from a lack of trained healthcare and emergency services workers.
Industry watchers say that it is more common for those entering these field to study at a community college than a university. To meet this need Lone Star College will, if voters so authorize, build a new health professions building at North Harris College and a science and health building on the Montgomery campus.
During formation of the bond referendum, input from the community suggested that the college system set traffic and safety as a priority issue. The proposed package has $38.3 million going to these areas.
The system also plans to add $25.9 million in technology infrastructure.
Trustees said that they originally planned to ask for $461.7 million. However by cutting out $41.7 million they can avoid a tax rate increase.
This is the college system’s second attempt in the last two years to gain approval for bonds. In 2006 voters turned down a $200 million package forcing the college to assess their needs and the community’s desires.
The May 10 election will also feature four positions on the system’s board of trustees. Fourteen candidates have filed for a spot on the ballot. Early voting is from April 28 to May 6.

Walle upsets Bailey in Democratic Primary

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– After 9 terms in office, State Representative Kevin Bailey lost his bid for re-election in the Democratic Primary last Tuesday. The newly elected candidate, who will face no Republican challenger in the general election in November, is Armando Walle.
Although voter turnout throughout the county was heavy, it was the same 22.6 percent in this district as elsewhere. In total, 8,571 voters went to the polls in District 140, according to the Harris County clerk. Walle received 4,919 votes or 57.4%, and Bailey 3,652 or 42.6%. Although Bailey led in absentee voting and was tied in early voting, Walle and his volunteers worked the polling places on election day very heavily, and came away with 63% of the votes that day. His campaign was a grassroots type, with many street walkers as well as endorsements.
Walle had the support of several prominent local democrats, primarily because Bailey had crossed party lines in the last legislative session to support Republican Tom Craddick as house speaker. On the other hand, Bailey is credited with authoring important legislation creating the improvement districts in Greenspoint, Airline, and Aldine which have proven to be important agencies for delivering services that previously were not available. These include public safety, flood control, water and sewer, environmental quality, nuisance control, education, and healthcare.
Walle is a local Aldine native, who went to MacArthur high school, where he is remembered for playing football. After graduating, he went to the University of Houston. Later he worked for several politicians, including Rodney Ellis, Carol Mims Galloway, and for six years as a staff member for Congressman Gene Green.

His campaign stressed this hometown character, as well as issues such as better public education, improved Children’s Health Care for more children (CHIP), flood prevention, and improved public safety, with an emphasis on eliminating gangs.
Walle is endorsed by many local democrats, including Gene Green, Rodney Ellis, Adrian Garcia, and Carol Galloway. He recently received the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle.
In other races of interest to local voters, one race that will directly impact Northeast Harris County is Precinct 3 constable. Ken Jones, the incumbent, had no trouble dispatching challengers William Norwood and Randy Rush. Jones collected approximately 70% of the vote, avoiding an April runoff. Jones draws Republican Tony Lewis in the fall.
Local Congressmen Gene Green (D-29) and Ted Poe (R-2) had no primary opponents. Green will face Republican Eric Story in the fall while Poe has no Democratic opponent.
State Rep. Joe Crabb of Humble avoiding a runoff by beating fellow Republicans Martin Basaldua and David Davenport with 57% of the vote for the House District 127 seat. Joe Montemayor faces Crabb in the fall.
Diane Trautman,who failed to unseat Crabb in the 2006 race, will be the Democratic candidate for county tax collector/ assessor. She will face Paul Bettencourt in the fall.
In other offices, incumbent Tommy Thomas won a position for sheriff, and Ed Emmett for county judge. The District Attorney’s position will require a run-off.

Outstanding Women in Business honored by Chamber

GREENSPOINT– The monthly chamber luncheon was held at the Sam Houston Raceway Park, and this exotic setting was perfect for a special presentation of awards and recognition to a group of women that have been successful in the business world.
The Keynote speaker was Lina Lawson, national president of the American Business Womens Association, and with her twin sister Tina, the owner of a design firm in Bryan. Her talk emphasized that many of these women were ABWA members, an organization that can offer support, training, networking, and leadership training.
She also mentioned, as did many of the women in their acceptance speeches, that they had the support of a team, and spouses, to achieve their goals and success stories.
Receiving recognition at the annual luncheon were:
Sally Bradford, Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority; Ann Franklin, Elvin Franklin Insurance Agency; Christy Wussow Hawkins, ExxonMobil; Jocklynn Keville, Greenspoint District; Gigi Lee, Houston Airport System; Tera Lightsey, Houston Marriott North Greenspoint; and Marilyn Sander, ProAction Careers.

It’s been a good week…

It has been a good day as far as bird watching goes and I do like it.
Went out back this morning to see the Purple Martins and how many are here. So far, there are eight of them in and around the house.
The Purple Martins were waiting on me to put the house up last week. As I secured the pole to the base pole, two of them were circling wanting me to hurry up. I had just washed the house.
After counting the Martins, I noticed several Cedar Waxwings in the neighbor’s tree next to a Tallow tree. After getting the binocs, there were twenty of the Cedar Waxwings in the tree.
A very pretty bird the Cedar Waxwing, tan in color with a colored tail tip and a black mask. Somewhat like the shape of a good size, red Cardinal with the hair swooped back.
As I went out front to get in the truck, there were a male and female Cardinal out front playing chase in the tree and down and around to the ground.

It has been a good week as far as that goes. My day job is what one calls dialing for dollars and that gets me introduced to people for up to sixty months…sometimes much longer if the court gets involved.
Had one account with a repayment history of being 26 times over 30 days late. That means two payments due. Then to top that, they were 9 times over 60 days late meaning there were three payments due. Last but not least, how about 2 times 90 days late and you know what that means.
With dirt as collateral, one cannot hire a Repo man to go snatch it as you would a car.
Court has to be involved in the taking of real estate and a timely process it is.
The account paid off as in FULL last week. Made my day, it did!
It is like pulling a gray hair, get two more in its place.
With petrol going to four bucks a gallon, is it going to put a crimp in your cash flow?
Everything in your house is delivered by truck so standby. Groceries have already gone up as much as 40 percent.
One must learn to eat what is on sale at the supermarkets. I shop Food Town and find the prices fair compared to where the rich folks shop.
If you select what is on sale, you can save a few bucks to buy your petrol.
For instance salad dressing, I love blue cheese and a pint of my brand cost as much as a gallon of petrol.
I make our salad dressing now, same stuff my dad used back at Charlie’s Fish Camp.
Ketchup and mayo whipped up with a dash of lemon juice. The twins grew up on it and it is good on biscuits and baked potato.
Know the best way to get on your feet?
Miss two car payments.