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Posts published in June 2015

Woman charged in apartment fire that displaced 20 families

GREENSPOINT – A woman has ben charged with arson in a two-alarm fire last Tuesday afternoon, June 23 in Greenspoint area.

The apartment fire displaced about 20 families at the Sierra Countyards Apartment near Northborough Drive, just north of Greenspoint Mall.

Amber Benjamin is in the Harris County jail charged with arson.

The Houston Fire Departmen said the fire is connect to a domestic disturbance with her boyfriend.

The fire was declared under control at 6:12 p.m., one person was reported with smoke inhalation, but is expected to be ok.

The HFD’s arson bureau is investigating the case of the fire.

Doctors Hospital Tidwell to remain open

Washington, DC., June 15, 2015 – After fighting to save doctors hospital and its reestablishment, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a longtime advocate and fighter for Doctor’s Hospital and the citizens its serves announces that Doctor’s Hospital, with the current assault on the Affordable Care Act, will remain open to serve its community.

Texas has the largest uninsured population in the country – 24.6% of Texans do not have health care coverage. Doctors Hospital Tidwell located at 510 West Tidwell Rd. is a 117 bed acute-care hospital committed to providing continuous quality health-care services to over 500,000 residents in the medically-underserved communities of North Houston. The hospital provides a broad range of primary care and specialty services through a qualified staff of over 200 physicians and 600 healthcare professionals.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee has been fighting tirelessly for Doctors Hospital over the years and has been responsible for bringing millions of dollars in federal funds along with lifesaving programs to the Hospital. This is a victory for the city and the residents in which Doctors Hospital serves.

Fatal Shooting in parking lot of Haverstock Hills

Sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene of a fight at an apartment in Haverstock Hills at 5600 Aldine-Bender last Saturday night, shortly after midnight.

However, the fight became violent, and gunfire erupted in the parking lot, according to reports from the Harris County Sheriff’s office.

As a result, one man identified as Thomas Campbell, was struck by bullets in the head, and died at the scene, reports Sgt. Robert Spurgeon of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department homicide unit. Sgt. Spurgeon indicated that Campbell was apparently trying to leave the area, and got caught in crossfire.

Witnesses said they thought the gunshots came from a white pick-up truck in the area, but Sgt. Spurgeon said they did not identify who actually shot Campbell.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers, 713-222-TIPS.

Storm Disaster Recovery Center opens in Houston

HOUSTON – A State/FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) is now open in Harris County for homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained damage as a result of the ongoing severe storms, tornadoes and flooding.

Specialists from the State of Texas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), nongovernmental organizations and the local community are on hand to answer questions and provide information on the types of assistance available to survivors.

The recovery center will serve as a central location for survivors who need one-on-one assistance. State and federal professionals will be available to help eligible survivors get help as quickly as possible.

Location and hours of operation:

Leonel Castillo Community Center, 2101 South Street, Houston, TX 77009.

Hours of operation (until further notice): Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sunday – Closed

Visiting with a recovery specialist is not a requirement for survivors who want disaster assistance, but the centers are an excellent way for people to get answers to their questions about disaster aid and help applying for it. Some of the services may include:

. Guidance regarding disaster recovery

. Clarification of any written correspondence received

. Housing Assistance and Rental Resources information

. Answers to questions, resolutions to problems and referrals to agencies that may provide further assistance

. Status of applications being processed by FEMA

Flood survivors statewide should call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 and report their damage to give the state and FEMA a better idea of the assistance that is needed in undesignated counties.

Assistance for eligible survivors can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and for other serious disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses or funeral and burial costs. Low-interest disaster loans from SBA also may be available to cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.

Eligible survivors should register with FEMA even if they have insurance. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, but under-insured applicants may receive help after their insurance claims have been settled.

State and County attorneys join forces to fight synthetic Marijuana

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan announced last Tuesday, June 15, a joint operation against four Houston-area stores for distributing products that contain synthetic marijuana while deceptively claiming the products are safe and legal.

“Synthetic marijuana is an extremely dangerous substance and a growing risk to Texas youth, as evidenced by the mounting numbers of recent hospitalizations in Texas related to its use,” Attorney General Paxton said. “These stores were operating in blatant disregard for the law and with an utter disregard for the safety of their customers. I commend investigators and officials who are working to put an end to this substance’s distribution.”

“These products are marketed and sold to children, despite defendants knowing the products are illegal and unsafe. Use of these products has not only caused illness, but even death in some cases,” said County Attorney Vince Ryan. “The statement on the packaging that it is ‘not intended for human consumption’ is simply an absurdity. The packaging itself was designed to provide cover for the seller and the user if they are confronted by law enforcement.”

In a coordinated effort involving criminal and civil enforcement, the Harris County Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Attorney General joined forces to fight this growing threat to Texas youth. As part of the operation, undercover agents from the Sheriff’s department were deployed into the defendant stores to purchase the items. Among the products being sold is a product called Kush, which is sold in various fruit flavors. The packaging states that Kush is “lab certified,” “contains no prohibited chemicals or materials” and is legal for sale in all 50 states. It lists the “main ingredients” as a variety of innocuous sounding vegetable matters—such as “lemon balm,” “passion flower” and “wild lettuce,” – without any mention of the key ingredient, AB-CHMINACA, a highly addictive and dangerous chemical.

After the undercover operation, the Texas Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the stores and their owner, Bao Quoc Nguyen, also known as Tony Nguyen, they are being sued for engaing in false, deceptive and misleading acts and practices in the course of trade and commerce since they are clearly misleading consumers that these products are safe and legal. They are also being sued as common nuisances under Texas law.

Attorney General Paxton obtained a temporary restraining order and a temporary injunction to prevent the sale of these products. A permanent injunction will be sought at trial.

ALDINE ISD – Salary increases for all employees

During their June 9 Board meeting, Aldine ISD Trustees unanimously approved salary increases for all employees.

The recommendations were made by Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Selina Chapa.

Trustees approved salary increases for teachers, nurses and librarians that range from 3.5-6%.

3.5% for teachers with 1 year of experience

4% for teachers with 2-5 years of experience

5% for teachers with 6-9 years of experience

6% for teachers with 10-19 years of experience

5% for teachers with 20 years of experience

3.5% for teachers with 21+ years of experience

Trustees approved a 3% salary increase for counselors, diagnosticians, social workers, principals, assistant principals, district administrators and all other campus and district based professionals with some equity adjustment or additional salary increases for employees who are making less than the “market” median.

Trustees approved a 5% salary increase for all paraprofessionals, clerical and auxiliary personnel.

Trustees also approved to increase starting teachers salaries from $50,000 to $51,000.

No increase in tax rate

During their June 9 Board meeting, Aldine ISD Trustees approved the budget for the 2015-16 school year. The general operating budget will be $665,660,880. The budget provides funding for all district operations, instructional programs and student activities.

Also during the June 9 Board meeting, Trustees approved the proposed tax rate for the 2015-16 school year. Anne-Marie Hazzan, assistant superintendent of finance, recommended the tax rate be set at $1.285888 (15.2500 cents for interest and sinking and $1.133388 for maintenance and operations). The 2015-16 tax rate will remain the same as it was during the 2014-15 school year. Aldine ISD Trustees will not be able to officially approve the proposed tax rate until the district receives the certified tax roll from the Harris County Appraisal District in late August. A notice of the proposed tax rate appeared in the Houston Chronicle and the Northeast News.

Neighborhood Centered! – Hundreds participate in Community Dialogue meeting

EAST ALDINE – Hambrick middle school packed an assembly room last Wednesday night, as residents and parents came to listen and talk about the opportunities that the Neighborhood Centers, Inc. facilities will offer in the new Town Center project planned to be built on Aldine Mail Route.

The meeting was sponsored by the NCI group, as part of their planned interaction with the community, to learn about their needs and desires for the new NCI facility.

Carlos Paz was the emcee for the evening, and he reported that the previous work session entitled East Aldine Voices, held in November 2014, had discovered many needs and feelings that the community has. “I’m proud to be from East Aldine” was an overlying themE, he said, and so to start the evening, attendees passed display boards of photos, of the character of East Aldine, both rough and polished, that illustrates the unique charm of the neighborhood.

Paz indicated that further planning by the community and the architects would reflect this character.

Paz reported to the audience that the goal for fundraising for the NCI campus in the East Aldine Town Center was $23 million dollars, and about half or $13 million had already been raised, guaranteeing success. He introduced the architects for the NCI campus, Page Architects of Houston.

Next Paz introduced what he termed “Six Community Champions” who spoke on one of the six categories that the meeting was organized around. These were Small Business Development, Workforce Development, Youth Programs, Adult Education, Financial Tools, and Learning Lab.

As further meetings ensue this week, and into the future, NCI plans to use these categories to focus on the needs of the community and the solutions that are possible.

There was a speaker representing each category, telling their story of living and working in East Aldine, and their commitment to the area.

First was SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, with Sandra Moreno, owner of Dreams Beauty Salon. She spoke of attending Aldine schools, living in the area, and “knowing everyone here.” She pointed out that this familiarity is good for her business, and any business.

Next was Hector Sandivar, on WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT. He attends the Good to Go Bus, for workforce opportunities, and wants to be a welder.

Costello Gomez, a student at MacArthur, spoke on YOUTH PROGAMS. He noted that the NCI campus will be good for education, but also the mental health or attitudes of the area. He noted that 40% of the area population is under 20 years old.

Virginia Bazan spoke on ADULT EDUCATION, and what education opportunities have meant to her, even though she missed this in her early years.

Coco Martinez works at Pilgrim Place and teaches people how to access FINANCIAL TOOLS. NCI will offer a credit union, tax help, and other financial services and advice.

A LEARNING LAB for older adults will be offered, as it is now at Pilgrim Place, according to resident Naomi Worsham. As she said, “you’re never too old to learn” and she exclaimed, about senior services to be offered, “I’m excited.”

Paz asked residents to help by taking pictures of their community, what they enjoy, and posting them at www.pinterest.com/eastaldinevoice/.

Follow-up sessions, concentrating on the six categories, are planned for Wednesday, June 17 and Thursday, June 18 at the offices of the East Aldine District, and the public is invited.

In addition, a summary of all this work will be presented at a meeting on June 30th, at 4:00 pm at Pilgrim Place 2, to celebrate how East Aldine works, and share stories and photos.

Hillary Clinton nominated by Jackson Lee to receive Barbara Jordan Public-Private Leadership Award

HOUSTON – Hillary Rodham Clinton was awarded the first Barbara Jordan Leadership Award last Thursday, at a ceremony at Texas Southern University, by Sheila Jackson Lee. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, represents the historic 18th Congressional District which was also represented by the Honorable Barbara Jordan.

“Barbara Jordan has a unique and special leadership that placed her in the annals of American history. She had a great love for the Constitution and for the rights of all people.

She used her oratorical skills to speak for the voiceless and challenged us to be more courageous with a great sense of integrity,” stated Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. For that reason, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee envisioned a gold medallion presentation that would capture the essence of these qualities in the service of women in the United States and around the world. This project was developed in the last year and many who heard about it were impressed and inspired. Because of Barbara Jordan’s relationship with Texas Southern University, where her oratorical skills and scholarship were enhanced, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee was inspired to bring this vision and to connect it to the Barbara Jordan – Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs and the Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Now that this proposal has come to fruition, we bestowed the annual presentation on June 4, 2015 and set the pace for honoring women and leaders around the world.

The first recipient of this inaugural award is the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton. ” Hillary Clinton personifies the courage and strength of Barbara Jordan through her years of work to ensure health insurance for all children, fighting for human rights for girls and women around the world, and her service to the most vulnerable in our society,” said Congresswoman Jackson Lee. Secretary Clinton has exemplified a unique scholarly approach to public service through her many works as First Lady, United States Senator, and as Secretary of State. Her efforts to ensure early childhood education, health insurance for all children, fighting for human rights for girls and women around the world, and her service to the most vulnerable in our society makes her a fitting nominee for the first Barbara Jordan Gold Medallion for Public-Private Leadership.

“For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future” – Barbara Jordan. “The future is our children and we must not fail them,” stated Congresswoman Jackson Lee.

The ceremony took place last Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 2:00 pm on the campus of Texas Southern University in the Health and Physical Education Arena.

Girl’s body found on Galveston beach

On Swim Outing with other KIPP Voyage students from NE Houston

GALVESTON, Texas — A 12 year old girl, missing after swimming in the waters off Galveston beach, has been found on Stewart Beach. She was on a field trip with the KIPP Voyage School, on Mesa Drive in North Forest area.

The Coast Guard has confirmed a body was found near Stewart Beach Saturday morning, May 30 by the Galveston Beach Patrol. The body matched the description of 12-year-old Samira Carlon.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this difficult time,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Andrechik, the command duty officer at Sector Houston-Galveston. “We are deeply saddened by this outcome, and we appreciate the dedicated efforts of everyone involved in the search.”

Samira was on a field trip to Galveston with KIPP Voyage students when she swam out to a sandbar and disappeared. A teacher who swam out with the girls was a trained lifeguard according to the school.

The U.S. Coast Guard searched eight miles along the shore and an additional eight miles from the air Thursday and Friday. Teams were deployed on a helicopter, a boat and even a human chain of lifeguards were used to look for any sign of the missing girl. Galveston County’s CERT team of volunteers also assisted in the search.

The Coast Guard joined 19 lifeguards and 2 personal watercraft from Galveston Beach Patrol along with multiple personnel assisting from Galveston Police Department and Fire Department in search of the girl by boat and helicopter.

The Coast Guard also continued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast throughout Friday evening into Saturday. Galveston Beach Patrol continued their searches Saturday as well.

KIPP’s superintendent sent the following statement to parents Saturday:

“I am deeply saddened to be writing you with this news. We have learned that our missing 6th grader from KIPP Voyage Academy has passed away. She went missing while swimming in Galveston during a field trip this week. Her body was found today.

She was deeply beloved at KIPP Voyage, with a constant smile that lit up a room. She was positive, curious, and energetic in her approach to learning and a caring teammate. She was an exemplary student and showed passion for every one of her classes. An enthusiastic dancer, she was always eager to learn new styles of dance and loved making up her own choreography. She was bold and brave. To KIPP Voyage she was truly “a light.”

Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your support during this difficult time.”

MASSIVE FLOODING PARALYZES REGION

Highways, Schools, METRO closed after storm

HOUSTON – A massive rainstorm inundated the city and surrounding counties to the west, dropping as much as 11 inches of rain on West Houston in 8 hours, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm started Monday evening, Memorial Day, and caught many drivers by surprise. Freeways were quickly flooded and impassable due to the heavy rainfall in such a short time.

Other areas had similar inundation: North Houston had over 4 inches, and Channelview and East Harris County had 7+ inches in that short time.

Harris County Office of Emergency Management issued a Level 1 alert, the first time it has been this high since Hurricane Ike in 2008. This level indicates a threat to life.

The amount of rain that fell is close to the 50 year storm, and has been compared to the devastating flood Allison in 2004.

Flash Flood warnings were issued for Fort Bend, Harris, Brazoria, Jackson, Matagorda, and Wharton counties all Monday evening and Tuesday morning, as the rains continued.

Besides highways and city streets that were impassable, a number of homes thoughout the western and northern areas of the city reported water inside their houses.

Richmond, Fountainview, and Chimney Rock reportedly have areas of water as deep as 4 feet, and were impassable to autos.

Five deaths were reported by Tuesday afternoon. These included one person who drove into high water on Ranchester, where it dips at an underpass at the Westpark Tollway. Other fatalities included a body found in Brays Bayou, believed to have originally been rescued by HFD and then lost in a boating accident, a body in Southeast Houston, a body in a car on I-45 at Tellepsen, and a body in a car in the Galleria area parking garage, where rapidly rising water had surprised and trapped many people. In addition, two persons are missing that were in the HFD rescue boat that overturned in Brays Bayou near Meyerland. To date they have not been located, but HFD said they did have life jackets.

Power outages were common, with Centerpoint reporting that 75,000 customers lost power sometime during the storm.

The two freeways most affected by the flooding were I-10 eastbound and westbound, near the intersection with I-45, and also I-45 near its intersection with North Main Street.

As the storm continued without letup through the night, most businesses, school districts, and even METRO decided to stay closed Tuesday. No buses or rail lines were operating Tuesday morning. Some were directly affected, and others didn’t want their employees to try to arrive through dangerous conditions. Closed districts included Houston ISD, Aldine ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Katy ISD, Spring ISD, the University of Houston, Houston Community College campuses, KIPP charter schools, and a number of private schools, especially on the west side.

A championship basketball game at Toyota Center, with the Houston Rockets, had thousands of fans stranded after the game, unable to leave because the route home was flooded and dangerous. Toyota Center hosted them, some all night.

On Tuesday, Governor Abbott and Judge Emmett declared Harris County a Disaster area. Abbott stated that this and Allison were the worst flooding situations he had ever seen. Mayor Parker said that Houston had towed 750 autos to open up blocked freeways.

The Red Cross opened shelters Monday night, at Acres Homes and the Chinese Community Centers.