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Posts published in August 2010

Rep. Walle hosts successful Senior Dance

HOUSTON — State Representative Armando Walle (D-Houston) hosted his inaugural senior citizen dance on Friday, August 20, at the Northeast Harris County Senior Center.
More than 100 senior citizens from the Hardy Senior Center, Northeast Senior Center, and North Central Senior Center came together to dance, enjoy refreshments and pose in keepsake photos at the event.
The Senior Dance was made possible in large part through sponsors such as, East Aldine District, AT&T and the Northside Redevelopment Center.
In addition to Walle, notable attendees included Congressman Gene Green, Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and Sheriff Adrian Garcia.
The local officials thanked the seniors for their long service to the community. Representatives from the offices of Senator Mario Gallegos, Representative Ana Hernandez and Commissioner El Franco Lee also came by in support.
“Hosting the senior dance was a pleasure and I look forward to making it an annual event. I appreciate our community’s involvement and great response to this successful event. After the years of service our seniors have provided to the community, I was happy to host them for a celebration in their honor,” said Walle.

3 Alarm fire on Canino destroys voting equipment

By GILBERT HOFFMAN Northeast News
A spectacular 3 alarm fire ripped through the Harris County warehouse at the corner of Canino and Downey on the Northeast side early Friday morning, destroying the building and the voting equipment contained within.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 27 a three-alarm blaze struck the Harris County Election Technology Center in the 600 block of Canino Road.
According to county fire officials, more than 200 firefighters battled the blaze, which started about 4 a.m. It took about four hours to extinguish the fire. Firefighters spent the rest of the day cooling the debris with water, as Arson investigators stood by to look for the cause, which at this time is not known.

Hector DeLeon, with the county clerk’s office said that all of the county’s voting machines, more than 10,000 of them, were housed in the building and were likely destroyed or otherwise damaged by fire, water and smoke. The building had a sprinkler system, but it is not known at this time whether it was working or activated during the fire.
The Harris County Veterinary Building next to the warehouse was not affected by the fire, except to have to close for a day due to the fire.
In a case of good timing, Aldine’s election will not be affected. A fire that destroyed a Harris County warehouse, which housed all of the county’s voting machines, will not negatively impact the school district tax rollback election on Aug. 31.
Aldine ISD Spokesman Mike Keeney said that four days before the fire they took possession of the machines they would need for election day. The county has asked Aldine to maintain storage of the machines that they also used for early voting.
As of press time, investigators were still going through the wreckage to determine the extent of the damage and a possible cause for the fire. It is estimated that the loss of the machines could reach $30 million, while the building itself would cost $10 million to replace.
Early voting for the Nov. 2 gubernatorial race is scheduled to begin on Oct. 18. Several alternate methods are under study on how to conduct the election. DeLeon said that they may borrow machines from other jurisdictions, so that the election could proceed as planned. However, another plan is to use paper ballots and scanners, or alternatively extend the time for early voting. In any case, voters will be encouraged to use mail in ballots where applicable.

Scenes from a childhood

By Kristan Hoffman

In my parents’ office, there were four tables pushed together to make a single large one. I remember sitting underneath those tables while my dad worked. I was out of school, for the day or for the summer, and I needed to be entertained. My dad gave me an old toolbox filled with china markers and colored pencils. For several minutes I drew squares and triangles on blank sheets of paper and pretended to be an architect, like him.

I remember sitting in front of his shoes, close enough to touch but far enough not to get in his way. I looked up at the underside of the table and tried to imagine the schematic he was working on just above my head. A house? A school? A bank? I talked to him through the the tables, pushing my little voice through the cracks where the tables met. I giggled when he answered, even though he wasn’t intending to be funny.

I remember his pipes. He kept four or five of them on a stand on the other side of the room. I thought they were cool, and grownup, like him. But he almost never smoked them. He had only picked up the habit, he said, because back when he taught at Yale, that was what all the professors did.

I remember how he reached for one of the pipes. Held the bowl in his hand, ran a finger along the stem. I crawled out from under the tables to watch.

My dad took the mouthpiece between his lips, sat back, and closed his eyes. As he savored the taste of years long since passed, I could see that he was not my father. He had been someone else before me. There would always be a part of him I didn’t know, and those pipes would never let me — or him — forget it.

I stopped thinking the pipes were cool.

Now, decades later, the pipes sit on a shelf, untouched and unremembered. He hasn’t smoked them in years. He has been my father.

CERT class trains citizens for emergencies

NORTHEAST — Harris County Citizens Corps is currently conducting an 8-week CERT training class, with 46 enrolled participants from the Northeast/Aldine area.

CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team, and the concept is to train citizens to be first responders to emergencies, before public safety officials can arrive, or in the case of large emergencies, to be able to offer aid in lieu of officials.

Classes are being held at the ESD#1 building on Aldine-Bender Road, and started on July 22 and will end on September 9. Persons interested in the classes can contact Richard Cantu at 713-595-1220 for future enrollment.

The course is being taught by Fire Service, Emergency Medical, and Law Enforcement professionals. Subjects that are being covered include:

– Disaster preparedness
– Small fire suppression
– Medical operations, treatment strategies
– Medical operations, triage
– Light search & rescue
– Team organization and disaster psychology
– Terrorism awareness (FBI)
– Disaster simulation drill

The course is free, and offered through the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and is co-sponsored by East Aldine District, and hosted by ESD#1.

CERT training is designed to prepare you to help yourself, your family, and your neighbors in the event of any anticipated disruptions and potential hazards before and following a disaster. Should emergency personnel not be available, you can use this training to save lives and protect property.

Additional information about CERT and the Harris County Citizen Corps is available at >www.harriscountycitizencorps.com.

Back to School and Health Expo at Greenspoint Mall prepare children for return

NORTHEAST — Last Saturday, Greenspoint Mall along with 8 other sponsors, held a Health Expo and Back to School event to prepare children for their return to school. Mall assistant manager Petra Owens said that the Expo was well attended, and all the gifts were expended in the first few hours.

Included in the day’s events were health screenings, immunizations, I.D. kits, fun activities, and presentations of health life styles on the Health Stage. Also, 1000 free backpacks stuffed with school supplies were given out by Community Health Choice and the other sponsors, which included the YMCA, Houston and Harris Count Health Departments, and others.

The Health Expo also included information and assistance with CHIP and Medicaid.

Financial freedom conference offers information, opportunities

The spacious Campbell Center in Aldine was the venue for last week’s Financial Freedom Conference, presented by Andrew Watkins of the Watkins Group and the Pennsylvania Life Insurance Company.

Many hundreds of interested persons attended, to hear the speakers and learn about opportunities for financial progress and success in their careers and lives.

The conference was designed to bring the community and its businesses, groups, and organizations together and extend to each attendee information concerning increasing their income, reducing debt, expanding business opportunities, increasing awareness of community resources, and other ideas designed to impact the current status of participants.

In addition to the information booths and packets, the audience for the all-day event heard a number of motivational and business speakers. In addition to the speakers, the conference awarded Soaring Eagle Awards to key people in the community that “make a difference in areas such as ministry, education, community resources, employment, business creation and development.”

Watkins expects to repeat the conference again later in the year. For information, call 281-227-6847.

(This story has been truncated for the web. For the full version, please see our print edition.)

MacArthur earns TEA ‘Recognized’ status

Aldine ISD District: Only ‘Acceptable’

The Texas Education Agency has announced report cards for area school districts, and the results are mixed for Aldine and North Forest ISD.

The state’s accountability ratings are based on the percentage of students passing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test, whether a school reached the state’s Required Improvement mark, and completion (graduation) rates for 2009.

Aldine ISD
Aldine had 29 Exemplary campuses (the highest rating available), 27 Recognized, and 4 Academically Acceptable campuses. As a district, Aldine was ranked Academically Acceptable.

Carver High School for Applied Technology earned Exemplary status. Their lowest test scored was in African American math with an 83% passage rate. They also had a 98.4% completion rate in 2009, or 185 out of 187 graduating.

The state breaks down test scores in four subgroups: African American, Hispanic, White, and Economically Disadvantaged.

MacArthur was ranked Recognized. Aldine got the Acceptable ranking. Nimitz also ranked Acceptable. Eisenhower’s failure to meet the required improvement levels helped give them an Acceptable rating. Among Ninth Grade campuses, Aldine, Eisenhower and Nimitz all hit Recognized status, while MacArthur got the top prize, Exemplary.

North Forest ISD

Despite 6 Recognized campuses and 1 Acceptable campus, as a district North Forest was declared Academically Unacceptable. They were 1 of 30 in the state to receive that ranking.

This was due in large part to the North Forest High School also making Unacceptable.

Students at the school failed to meet required improvements in 3 out of 4 areas in reading and all 4 subgroups in science. While an average of 48% of students passed the math test, they did meet required improvements in 3 of 4 areas.

The school posted a 61.1% completion rate in 2009. While up 2.1% from 2008, it failed to meet the state-required 8% improvement.

(This story has been truncated for the web. For the full version, please see our print edition.)

Dreams

By Kristan Hoffman

Last night I fell asleep imagining all the things I want in life. I pictured my future home, with granite countertops in the kitchen, the breakfast bar where I will work in the mornings, the sunlight filtering in through the windows. I pictured the big grassy backyard where my dog and kids will play. I pictured the book signings, the emails and phone calls with my agent and editor, the special shelf in my library for my own covers to be displayed.

It’s not easy for me to talk about these things, because I am a bit superstitious. I knock on wood after I make jokes, afraid to jinx the good things or foretell the bad. I believe there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and I do my best to stay on the right side of that line because I believe in karma.

But I subtitled my website (kristanhoffman.com) “writing dreams into reality” because that’s what it’s about — what I’m about. I’m working hard to turn my dreams of being a writer into my reality. And I transform many of my “dreams” (ideas) into real, written-out stories. That’s all I’ve wanted to do since I was 9 years old, and I hope to do it until I’m 90.

Sometimes it’s a slog, let’s be honest. Sometimes I would rather be sleeping, or going out with friends, or eating a pint of ice cream on the sofa while watching Grey’s Anatomy. Sometimes my back hurts, or my wrists hurt, or my neck hurts, or my eyes hurt. Sometimes I can’t think of a single good word, much less a whole sentence. Sometimes I get so tired I could cry.

But it’s those times that my dreams matter most, and that’s why I’m sharing them now. As a reminder to myself that I’m working towards something tangible, even when everything seems out of my control and about as real as Tinkerbell. As a reminder to any of you who have dreams that you shouldn’t give up on them. Dreams are part of what make life worth living.

Did I think that by 24 I’d have found a wonderful man I want to marry? Or that I’d have the bestest, cutest dog in the whole world? That my friends and family would still be supporting, encouraging, and inspiring me every day? That I would have an editorial team interested in my stories?

No, once upon a time, those were just “silly dreams.” But now here I am, and here they are. And that’s how I know there’s more to come. That’s how I know that if I can dream it, I can achieve it.

And I will.

Greenspoint Public Safety Initiatives recognized as among best in state

The Greenspoint District’s effective and successful public safety programs have earned the district a prestigious crime prevention award. The Texas Crime Prevention Association (TCPA), a non-profit dedicated to promoting best practices in crime prevention, recently presented the Greenspoint District with an “Outstanding Crime Prevention Business” award at its annual conference. The award is given to organizations that reduce crime and provide the greatest support to crime prevention programs. The Greenspoint District also won the organization’s “Outstanding Crime Prevention Organization” award in 2008.

“The Greenspoint District works hard to make our area a safe and successful activity center,” said Greenspoint District Director of Public Safety Al Aranda. “This award is a reflection of our strong law enforcement partnerships and the success of our district-initiated public safety programs. We are deeply grateful to all of the organizations involved in our public safety programs.”

The TCPA award highlights seven successful district-initiated programs that seek to reduce rime and involve the community in crime prevention. These programs include:

• Operation Greensweep
• Harris County Sheriff’s Office Overtime Program
• Greenspoint Stopping Auto Theft (G.S.A.T.)
• Off-Duty Special Operations Program
• Graffiti Abatement Program
• Auto Theft Report Card
• Crime Prevention/CPTED Surveys

These programs have yielded measurable reductions in crime. According to statistics from HPD and Harris County, since the district was created in 1991, Greenspoint has experienced a 42 percent reduction in Part 1 crimes (major crimes) per 1,000 people. Furthermore, these reductions were realized even though the area’s population has increased by 48 percent and employment has increased by 106 percent.

Feds indict 20 after raids at local flea markets

3 area flea markets raided


Operated Fake I.D. netted 13 charges by indictment for allegedly conspiring to possess, obtain, accept and receive forged, counterfeited, altered and falsely made immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, permits, border crossing cards, alien registration cards, and other documents prescribed by statute or regulation for entry into or as evidence of authorized stay or employment in the United States, United States Attorney Jose Angel Moreno and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Fienberg announced last week.

“The sale of counterfeit identification documents is a matter of national security,” said Moreno. “These types of enforcement actions are necessary to secure our borders and protect our citizens.”

Two indictments charging a total of 20 persons returned under seal by a Houston grand jury on July 22, are the result of an 18-month investigation dubbed Operation Fake I.D., conducted by the HSI Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, which includes special agents of the Department of State Diplomatic Security SErvice and officers of the Houston Police Dept.

Operation Fake I.D. focused its investigative efforts upon persons allegedly involved in the trafficking of counterfeit government identity documents, including permanent resident cards, at the Sunny, La Tia Pancha, and Sintas flea markets in North Houston.

(This story has been truncated for the web. For the full version, please see our print edition.)