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Posts published in “Day: July 7, 2009”

Airline Drive polluter jailed for not cleaning up property


According to Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, Kingwood businessman Luis Ortiz recently spent time in the Harris County Jail, becoming the first person in more than ten years to go to jail in the county for failing to clean up pollution at his business.

Ortiz was ordered to spend five days in jail for contempt of court for his failure to obey two agreed orders signed by District Court Judge Tony Lindsay in 2008. The court’s orders required Ortiz to clean up contaminated soil at his auto parts salvage business at 8401 Airline Drive.

At the contempt-of-court hearing on June 17, Ortiz agreed to serve five days in jail but Judge Lindsay agreed to allow Ortiz to delay going to jail until Monday, June 29, so Ortiz could begin to get the property cleaned up.

When Ortiz appeared in Judge Lindsay’s court yesterday morning for commitment to the jail, his attorney asked Judge Lindsay to reconsider or reduce the jail sentence, claiming that Ortiz was now in substantial compliance with the court’s order.

County Attorney Vince Ryan argued that Ortiz should be sent to jail. “We need to let Mr. Ortiz fulfill the terms of the agreement he made and be an example to other individuals and businesses that Harris County is serious about enforcing laws and court orders that protect public heath,” he said. “We regret having to put anyone in jail, but Mr. Ortiz promised to clean up this property a long time ago and he didn’t do it.”

Lindsay rejected proposals that Ortiz be allowed to serve his time on weekends only and ordered Ortiz be taken from her courtroom to the Harris County Jail.

“Mr. Ortiz had more than enough time to clean up the property before the second contempt hearing,” she said.

Rock Owens, chief of the County Attorney’s Environmental Division, filed the case in 2006. He said, “We all need a clean environment and individuals like Mr. Ortiz must pay for being irresponsible.”

According to Ryan, Ortiz is in the auto parts salvage business. One of his lots was at 8401 Airline Drive in unincorporated Harris County. “Automotive fluids may contain arsenic, barium, chromium, copper, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, selenium, or zinc, among other chemicals. When cars are dismantled, all the fluids, fuels, and lubricants that were in the car drain out,” Ryan said.

Complaints filed against Ortiz said that at his lot on Airline, these liquids were spilled onto bare ground or concrete slabs. When it rains, the fluids flow into the open ditches alongside Airline Drive. These ditches eventually drain into Halls and Greens Bayous, and then the Houston Ship Channel.

In 2006, Harris County sued Ortiz for violations of the Texas Water Code, the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act, and Harris County’s Regulations for Storm Water Quality Management at his auto parts salvage business at 8401 Airline Drive. These statutes apply to all businesses in the state.

In January 2008, to avoid a trial on the suit, Ortiz agreed to a court order that required him to close the auto salvage yard at 8401 Airline, remove all the cars and solid waste, and remove the poisoned soil, and pay fines. He allegedly did nothing to comply with the order.

In October 2008, the county filed a motion for contempt against Ortiz for violating the order Lindsay signed in January. Once again, Ortiz agreed to close the business and remove the contaminated soil.

In June 2009, because Ortiz still had not complied with the conditions of Lindsay’s orders about removing the contaminated soil, preventing runoff from the property, and paying fines, the County filed a Second Motion for Contempt, this time asking that the judge consider sending Ortiz to jail.

At a hearing on the second contempt motion on June 17, Ortiz agreed to serve five days in jail and take specific steps to clean up the property.

Mattress Mack reopens store; honors firefighters


After the devastating fire that destroyed his warehouse, and damaged most of the furnishings in his main showroom on I-45 North, Jim McIngvale vowed to reopent for business on July 4th at the main store location, and he followed through with that promise this week.

The total devastation has been estimated at $20 million dollars, and the fire officials have said that the cause of the blaze was intentional arson, but they have not yet said who was responsible or why.

Gallery Furniture commissioned Bob Mosier, a sculptor who also teaches at The John Cooper School, to design and construct a permanent memorial to the fire department’s efforts. The sculpture is made of twisted steel beams from the damaged warehouse, welded and painted into an uplifting shape. It has been installed near the entrance to the store.

McIngvale had received much support and praise from the community since the May 21 fire, and he in turn has thanked all those, and especially the Houston Fire Department, for their help in containing the blaze to only the warehouse behind the main showroom.

Much of that showroom has now been cleaned and restored to new condition, in spite of heavy smoke and water damage from the fire fighting effort. McIngvale and a team of designers have added new features to the showroom interiors, and these were on display at the grand “re-opening” on Saturday, July 4th. These include a new Mango Grove with exotic birds and monkeys in residence; the permanent firemens’ sculpture, a new home theater display, and a new Tempur-Pedic Room.

Spending time on ‘The Rock’


Spent a little time behind bars recently as me and the Mrs. took a boat ride to the island of Alcatraz just off San Francisco. A worthwhile endeavor indeed not to mention all the stories behind the self guided tour.

The whole place has deteriorated very much but could still house a few prisoners. The Box was something to see as was the visitation area. An interesting sign during the tour read, “Break the rules and you go to prison, break prison rules and you go to Alcatraz”. Lots of bad people spent time there and heard some interesting facts about the Birdman of Alcatraz. He never had birds while he was at Alcatraz (it was against the rules) but had birds when he was at Leavenworth.

There ain’t nothing cheap in San Francisco. Parking at the hotel was forty bucks a night even if you stayed there. We did not rent a car, but fully used the public transportation system. The cable car was.well, I will not wait in line that long again to ride the thing. It was packed like sardines on the inside and we managed to have inside seats. But if you sat, people standing faced us or you get their rears in your face and you couldn’t see the city. No Mas.

The street cars (F Line) with overhead wires were the best mode of transportation. We got on one the first day there just to get our bearings. We rode it from one end to the other and back near our hotel. That in itself was a tour of the city and a sight to see for a buck fifty each. The ticket stub can be used again within four hours.

Night lights mean bright colorful lights along Fisherman’s Wharf. Made it to Chinatown one evening riding on the street car in San Francisco. Have not been in that hilly of an area since I went back to Georgia. Told one fellow from there that it is a wonder they don’t have one leg longer than the other with those hills.

It was cold in San Francisco most of the time and we took jackets having been forewarned. Lots of stores sell sweats and $19.99 lite weight jackets with San Francisco embroidered or something on the front. Nice jacket and one would make you smile when all you brought were pull over short sleeve shirts.

Out from the end of the building area was a swim club and folks were actually swimming in that frigid water. Air temp was good jacket weather and water temp in the high fifties. My Wranglers felt good too, so you can imagine the water. Some had on wet suits while others had simple bathing suits. You can see everything in California; I can believe that after this trip.

Took one tour bus trip across the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods, the place where the large trees grow and enjoyed it a whole bunch. An interesting fact at the bridge is that it is painted every year. Six months to do one side and six the other, then they starts over again – interstate orange. Glad to be back home even with this sweltering heat.

Tip of the Hat Award goes to the Garcia sisters


It is time for me to pat a couple of young ladies on the back. Since I am over a thousand miles away I have to do it in writing. This writer was quite pleased last week to receive my copy of the Northeast News and find that a set of twins was the top two graduates at MacArthur High School for 2009. They went on to say they “never set out to be top-ranked.”

A tip of the Touch of Life hat goes out to Diedra and Cinthya Garcia who were the number one and number two ranked students in this year’s graduating class. I’m sure they were one of the highlights of their class graduating ceremonies held a few weeks ago. From the newspaper story they have been top ranked in the class for more than a year. As I recall from the article I read Diedra was the Valedictorian and Cinthya was the Salutatorian. The difference in grand point average between them was very small. They were separated by a GPA of .0195.

I never had such lofty goals in my high school days. Valedictorian was simply out of the question and I could be Salutatorian only if there were only two in my graduating class.

As expected the twins will not stop here. One is moving on to become a University of Texas Longhorn and the others will head east for Johns Hopkins University. No doubt those schools are glad to have these two fine students among their incoming freshmen. Good luck to both.

The spring high school graduation ceremonies for 2009 are all over by now as this is early July. Certainly there are Valedictorians and Salutatorians all over the place right now who are looking forward to many good things for themselves in the world of academia over the next few years. Texas and the U. S. can only benefit from the likes of these.

Others among our graduates will also move on to bigger and better things as well. We wish the best for them as well. Some of the “late bloomers” will end up doing better than many of the topped ranked students in their high school classes while at colleges and universities. That’s just how it works. Among these “late bloomers” will be many who settled down at the next level, hit the books, and will come out much better off for their experiences. Good luck to all!

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

A sincere “Thank You” from a mother’s heart


I wish to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to the men and women of the sheriff’s department, most especially those patrolling Bertrand St. and surrounding areas.

While very professional they were also kind and considerate towards my son Ernest Aranda. Through the years Ernest was dropped off at home by these thoughtful officers who saw beyond his appearance into his human dignity.

These public servants of the law are to be commended. But on the contrary they are hardly appreciated.

I also wish to thank the fire chief and all the men of the fire department for the professionalism of the water rescuers in retrieving the body of my son Ernest Aranda from Halls Bayou on March 26, 2009.

I also wish to thank Harris County Care Unit ESD1 from Isom St. for on several occasions they transported Ernest to the hospital.

I use the word “servant’ with all due respect for all these people daily take their lives in their hands in order to help or serve others.

Last but not least I wish to thank the officer for his personal donation towards my son Ernest’s funeral.

With sincere thankfulness
Ernest Aranda’s Mother
Linda A. McLoughlin