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Northeast News

Back-to-school-time-for Worsham parents

The air of excellence at Worsham Elementary School, a state Exemplary school for seven years and a fully funded Title I campus, was swarming with exuberant parents on August 29. Nearly 100 parents were not deterred by the rainy weather from attending the WHAT IS TITLE I? PARENT ORIENTATION conducted by Title I Teachers Connie Jones and Van Johnson. From 8:30-10:30 am. it was BACK-TO-SCHOOL TIME FOR PARENTS!

Norma Leza, our new principal, greeted and paid homage to the parents as she emphasized the parents’ vital role in helping their children to be focused, successful learners. Along with new assistant principal Kristin Cooks, Norma Leza encouraged the parents to be active, involved, and visible partners in the educational climate at Worsham.

Connie Jones and Van Johnson presented the Title 1 School-Parent Compact and stressed ways to integrate home and school responsibilities to ensure that every child achieves a quality education.

The parents committed themselves to being active stakeholders in their children’s education. Hearty refreshments were served.

The air of excellence increased at Worsham as the parents accepted the charge of active stakeholders in their children’s education. The parents’ ongoing commitment and involvement will be crucial factors in maintaining the exemplary status of Worsham Elementary for the eighth consecutive year.

Estate Cartridge is booming in premium shell business

























With the dove season opening on September 1 in the Central and North Zones, the early teal season opening September 15, and the South Zone dove season opening on September 21, the shotgunning season in Texas is getting into full swing.

Shooting over a hot dove field or popping at fast flying teal buzzing over shallow pot holes, shotgunners can burn up a lot of shotshells. In the real world of wingshooting, it is a well-known fact that “misses” are more common than “hits” during these early seasons while gunning for the tiny gray bullets called dove and the little speedster, the diminutive teal duck.

Surveys indicate that the average shotgunner, nationwide, bags only about 3 or 4 dove per box of 25 shells. Some quick math indicates that for the average shooter, it takes 75 — 100 shots or 3 or 4 boxes of shells to bag his limit of 12 birds. This is equivalent to 7-8 shots for every bird in the bag. The fun of bird hunting has to be the challenge of trying to hit the acrobatic little dove.

With the volume of shooting during these early seasons, it is no wonder that the standard joke among shotgunners is that for the shell manufacturers, it is Christmas in September.
Because of the number of boxes of shells gone through by the average shotgunner during this time of the year, more attention is paid to the price per box than to quality of the shells. During these seasons, all the big sporting goods stores run specials on low-brass “field loads” at cheap prices. Buying up shotgun shells for the dove season is almost always price driven. Not a lot of attention is paid to quality.

Recently, I dropped by the offices of Rick Shoupe, the director of sales for Estate Cartridge (936-856-7277) near Conroe. Rick is a long time friend and has been in the ammo business all of his adult life. (I won’t mention the details of the trouble he got into as a youth while conducting experiments with gunpowder and shot in his father’s garage.) Since he has been shooting it during his many years as a waterfowl guide, testing it, or selling it, Rich is as knowledgeable as anyone in the business when it comes to ammunition.

Shoupe has been with Estate Cartridge about ten years. He has seen the company go through a tremendous expansion period. The company was founded in 1982 by avid shotgunner Paul Butaud. He started making custom shot shells for a small circle of friends and faithful customers who wanted a more quality custom shell than they could normally buy over the counter.

About the time Rick was lured away from Remington, one of the big three ammo manufacturers, in 1991, Estate launched into the commercial market with low-brass dove and quail loads that were superior in quality to the field loads already on the market. With Rick’s guidance, the volume of shells that the company produced vastly increased.

With the changes in federal regulations requiring shooters to use non-toxic shot loads while hunting migratory birds such as ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes, Estate started producing a line of steel shot.

Every knowledgeable shotgunner has heard all the arguments and knows that with all things being equal, steel shot does not perform as well as lead.
“The key word here is ‘velocity’,” Shoupe explained. “You have to make a quality shell that performs at over 1400 FPS (feet per second) to be effective. We make sure that all of our steel shot tests up to those standards.”

Because of the changes in shotshells, most of the newer shotguns come chambered to handle the 3 and 31/2” high-velocity magnum shells designed for better performance and power, especially when shooting big birds such as geese.

One of the highlights of my visit to Estate was a tour of the plant where the shells are actually assembled and tested to exacting standards. All the machines are the latest in computerized, high-tech equipment. A sampling of each batch of shells is fired and tested to make sure they meet the high tolerances of EPS, velocity, and other performance capabilities. Running at capacity, these machines can crank out over 1,000 cases of shells per week.
The latest venture for Estate Cartridge is their introduction of a line of centerfire rifle cartridges. They are a premium Speer Hot-Cor shells built to Estate’s exacting specifications. They are available in major sporting goods stores in all the popular centerfire rifle calibers.

My trip to Estate Cartridge gave me a whole new understanding and knowledge about the shells we shoot during our hunting pursuits. As I was leaving, Shoupe told me, “I can’t guarantee these premium shotgun shells will help you hit any more birds, but I can guarantee that you will notice a difference in the performance of your shotgun, especially on those long shots.”

Football season should be full of twists and turns at every level

The 2001 football season is already two weeks old, but things really get going this weekend when high school teams across the state take the to the field this weekend with dreams of a state championship dancing in their heads.

While the youngsters start their championship quests this weekend, so do their elder brethren in the NFL, but the big boys have dreams of a Super Bowl trophy dancing about in their heads.

And let’s not forget about the collegiate scene, where a handful of teams already have two games under their belts. Programs from Austin to Gainesville, Florida are setting their sights on the Rose Bowl, where on Jan. 5, 2002, the Granddaddy of them all will host the BCS national title game, and this year, there’s a good chance one of the participants could call Texas home.
This is an exciting time of year for football fans. There’s nothing like the start of a new season and once again this year, this space will be dedicated to one man’s views on what might (or should) happen at the high school, collegiate and professional level during the upcoming season.

So let’s get started and see what Week 1 has to offer at the high school level.

Aldine vs. Madison: A great Week 1 match-up between two of the Houston area’s better teams. Bill Smith’s Mustangs finished 10-3 a year ago, but return one offensive and five defensive starters this year. They will be facing a Madison team that finished 10-2 a year ago and has one of the area’s top offensive threats in quarterback Vincent Young (6-5, 190 pounds). Aldine’s bookend tackles L.C. Kirkpatrick (6-3, 270 pounds) and Michael Bowie (6-3, 260 pounds) will be chasing Young all over the field on Friday night hoping to contain him and start Aldine out with a win in 2001. My pick, Aldine 20, Madison 18

Eisenhower vs. Willowridge: This game is set for the Reliant Astrodome and it will pit former Eisenhower defensive coordinator Daryl Spurlock against his former boss, Ike head coach Richard Carson. Needless to say, Spurlock has a pretty good idea of what the Eagles have to offer and once again, the Eagles are loaded for another long playoff run. Ike finished 13-1 (they won their first 13 games before losing in the Division I semifinals to Austin Westlake) and returns a solid nucleus. Back to lead the way is senior quarterback Ricky Murphy and a host of talented personnel on offense. Couple that with a load of experience on defense and Spurlock’s coaching debut could be less than memorable. My pick, Eisenhower 31, Willowridge 14

Conroe vs. MacArthur: Terry Forga and the Generals would like nothing more than to get the 2001 season started on the right foot. MacArthur returns three starters on offense and five on defense. Forga likes the returning nucleus, especially the versatility of wide receiver/quarterback Xang Chareunsab, who has been tabbed to start the season at quarterback. Forga knows his team cannot afford a lot of injuries, which hampered their playoff run a year ago. MacArthur should be able to handle a Conroe team that finished 5-5 a year ago. My pick, MacArthur 21, Conroe 14

Nimitz vs. LaPorte: The Nimitz Cougars and head coach Randy Rowe are hoping the late season momentum they gained a year ago by reaching the playoffs carries over into this season. The Cougars have enough talent to contend for one of the three playoff spots up for grabs in District 21-5A. The defense will be called on to lead the way until the offense gets settled behind quarterbacks Jasper Stewart and Eric Julien. LaPorte will offer a good test for Nimitz in Week 1, but a road win against a quality opponent could do a lot for the team’s confidence. My pick, Nimitz 16, LaPorte 13

Now let’s take a look at the college scene, where most of the spotlight will center on Lincoln, Neb this weekend.

Notre Dame at Nebraska: A year ago, these two teams went into overtime before Nebraska escaped with a three-point win in South Bend. Look for another tight tussle this week as the Irish come calling. Nebraska was less than overwhelming in its season-opening win against TCU, but expect the Huskers to be ready for a Notre Dame team that could be Bob Davie’s best team yet. The Irish are a senior-laden team, but the key to their season will be how well sophomore quarterback Matt Lovechio performs. Nebraska may have trouble running at ND’s veteran defensive line, so don’t be surprised if quarterback Eric Crouch has a big night operating the outside option. What a prime-time thriller this should be. My pick, Notre Dame 26, Nebraska 24

North Carolina at Texas: Mack Brown entertains his former team, but don’t expect him to be a gracious host. This is the year many Orange bloods have been pointing to as the year when the ‘Horns return to national prominence. Brown has assembled some of the best talent in the country, now it’s time to see if he can lead that talent to the top of the heap in college football. This will also be a good measuring stick to see how UT stacks up against defending national champion Oklahoma. The Sooners opened their season with a 41-27 win over the Tarheels two weeks ago, so expect Texas to try to improve on that score to send their rivals across the Red River a message. My pick, Texas 45, North Carolina 10

Michigan at Washington: The Pac 10’s defending champion takes on one of the Big 10’s (Big 11!) top programs in this classic match-up. Used to be, these two teams would wait until Jan. 1 to meet in the Rose Bowl, but those days are over now that the Rose Bowl is tied to the BCS and happens to be the host for the national title game this year. Call this the Rose Bowl in September, although both teams suffered heavy losses due to graduation. Still, this should be a good one to watch. Both teams lost their starting quarterbacks, Washington to the NFL, and Michigan to Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees. There is still enough talent around in both of these programs to keep these teams from missing a step this year. Look for a high-scoring game, with the nod going to the home standing Huskies. My pick, Washington 34, Michigan 31

USC at Kansas State: How in the world did Bill Snyder let this happen? Did he really schedule a bona fide non-conference game (OK, so it’s only USC) to start off the season? Apparently so. Snyder has learned the hard way that if you don’t play quality opponents, the BCS isn’t going to be kind to you and opening with a name team in USC can’t hurt. Granted, the Trojans have slipped a bit from their hay days in the ’70s and ’80s, but they are still USC and they should give the young Wildcats a good test this weekend. KSU’s season rest on the talents of former Baytown Lee star Ell Roberson III who is now the man under center. A convincing win in the season opener by the ‘Cats could cause a lot of concern around the Big 12. My pick, Kansas State 27, USC 17

Now let’s look at the NFL as the big boys begin their chase of the defending Super Bowl champs, the Baltimore Ravens.

Tampa Bay at Dallas: My how things have changed. It used to be that Tampa Bay was the struggling team and Dallas the veteran playoff team, but that’s not the case anymore. These two teams have switched identifies. Tampa Bay is a clear Super Bowl contender, while Dallas begins the rebuilding process after the loss of veterans Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnston, Michael Irvin and a number of others who helped them win three Super Bowls in four years. Dallas owner Jerry Jones is putting his stock behind unproven rookie quarterback Quincy Carter, and while Carter had moments in the preseason, he will get a taste of life in the real NFL when the Bucs come calling on Sunday. Look for Tampa Bay to play things close to vest on offense and use their bullish defense to compound, confuse and contuse Carter all afternoon. Cowboy fans, this could be a long, long year. My pick, Tampa Bay 17, Dallas 3

Miami at Tennessee: A great match-up for ESPN’s first Sunday night game of the year featuring two of the league’s best defenses. Both teams have legitimate shots at unseating Baltimore as the kingpin of the AFC and you can bet both will be out to send a message to the rest of the AFC on Sunday night. The Titans’ defense got stronger during the off season with the acquisition of defensive end Kevin Carter from the Rams. With Carter on one side and Jevon Kearse on the other, opposing quarterbacks could be in for a lot of trouble this year. Look for a conservative approach by Jeff Fisher in this one offensively. With Eddie George around, the Titans don’t have to get tricky, especially considering they will be facing one of the league’s top defenses in Miami. My pick, Tennessee 16, Miami 10

St. Louis at Philadelphia: This game also pits two teams that have Super Bowl aspirations. This game matches the Rams’ high-scoring offense against the Eagles’ stingy defense, so something has to give. I might be inclined to give the edge to the Eagles because defenses are always ahead of offenses early in the season, but the Rams appear to be able to turn it on no matter when they play. Look for Philly to try and shut down running back Marshall Faulk, which will force quarterback Kurt Warner to throw the ball. That will play right into the hands of the blitz-happy Eagles. When the Eagles have the ball, expect a lot of Duce Staley to chew up time off the clock. Also look for third-year quarterback Donovan McNab to use his many skills to keep the sub-par Rams’ defense on its heels all afternoon long. My pick, Philadelphia 23, St. Louis 21

NY Giants at Denver: The defending NFC champions help the Broncos open their new stadium on Monday Night Football. This should be a good opener for the crew at ABC. The Giants are a solid veteran club, while the Broncos added more talent to a very good team during the off season. One of the big questions in this one will be who starts at running back for the Broncos. With Terrell Davis still not his former self, Denver has two horses in reserve in Mike Anderson and Orlandis Gary, so if Davis can’t go, the Broncos won’t miss a beat in the rushing department. The Giants are hoping second-year man Ron Dayne is ready to carry the bulk of the rushing load, which would allow them to eat up the clock and keep the ball out of the hands of Brian Griese and the high-scoring Denver offense. Look for Denver to come out smoking in this one as they open their new digs. My pick, Denver 31, New York 16

Preventing the spread of colonias

Q: My parents recently bought a lot in a development near the border. They were promised that water and sewer hookups would be installed soon, but nothing has been done. Many of the houses in the area are ramshackle. My parents have since found out that the area was not legally subdivided. To whom do we report this? Is there anything that can be done?

A: As Attorney General, I have made it a priority to stop the proliferation of colonias along the Texas-Mexico border. Colonias are usually housing developments in unincorporated areas that can include substandard dwellings that lack basic services. It is common for colonias to lack water, electricity, sewage lines, garbage pickup and paved roads. These conditions lend themselves to the development of third-world diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria.

In addition, many families who purchase land in these areas to build their homes find their dreams turned into nightmares. Often, consumers like your parents purchase lots in an area believing that it is legally subdivided only to find out, too late, that it isn’t.

During the 1999 Legislative Session, the Legislature strengthened a law that applies to residential subdivisions in border-area counties.
The law requires all subdivisions outside city limits to comply with state development standards. Subdividers must provide drinking water, sewer service, good drainage, and roads that meet county standards. Developers are not permitted to sell property if it lacks running water and sewage treatment, unless they have provided financial guarantees that the services will be provided by a specific date.

My office is working to halt the spread of these areas and to take action against unscrupulous developers who take hard-working Texans’ money. In July, we obtained final judgement against two Hidalgo County developers for violations of Texas anti-colonias laws. They are required to provide water hookups and septic systems for all the lots, and to correct drainage problems.

The developers have also been ordered to pay a $75,000 civil penalty and $55,000 in attorneys’ fees.

There are several ways to report possible colonia developments. First, you can contact the county officials where your parents’ property is located. Both the county attorney and the county planning department may be able to provide assistance. If the developer can be found, the county can sue to force the developer to file a proper subdivision plat and provide required services.

Second, you can contact investigators within my office who focus on colonia issues. One investigator, Rudy Villareal, is located in our McAllen field office, which can be reached at (956) 682-4547, extension 111.

Another, Don Gutierrez, works in the Natural Resources Division of our Austin headquarters.
You can reach that office at (800) 252-8011. You can also file a consumer complaint through our office by calling (800) 621-0508.

My office is primarily responsible for assuring that the laws regarding land development, lots sales, and utility connections are enforced. But other agencies are available to help colonia residents. A variety of state and federal programs provide funding to secure water and sewer services for older colonias. More information is available through the Secretary of State’s office, which coordinates colonia initiatives that involve state and local programs and officials. You can contact the colonia initiatives office of the Secretary of State at (512) 463-8948. That office can provide referrals to regional ombudsmen who work in the counties with large colonia populations.

The ombudsmen provide referrals to several state-funded, self-help centers that provide assistance to colonia residents.

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs also has a new program that offers low-interest loans to colonia residents.

For more information on this program and other services, contact the Office of Colonia Initiatives at (800) 462-4251.

Thank you for reporting this problem. We appreciate your willingness to help. The sooner officials know about colonia-like developments, the sooner we can take action to protect property owners.

WANTED FOR SEXUAL ASSUAULT

This week’s Crime Stoppers report involves the aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault of a woman in Humble.

On Tuesday, May 8th at approximately 9:00 p.m., a female custodian was abducted at gunpoint from the campus of Humble High School in the 1700 block of Wilson Road.

The victim had gone to the dumpster located in the parking lot to empty some trash when the suspect drove past her in a blue, four-door passenger car. He made a U-turn and came to a stop next to the woman, produced a pistol and demanded that she get into his car.

Fearing for her life, she did as she was instructed.

The suspect drove to a nearby isolated field on Mitchell street where he pushed the woman to the ground and sexually assaulted her.

After the assault, the suspect spit on the ground next to the victim and left the scene in his car.
Fearing that her attacker would return, the victim ran back to the high school for help. She was taken to a local hospital, treated for her injuries and released. Anyone with information in regards to the case or on the identity or location of the suspect or suspects responsible for this aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault is urged to call Crime Stoppers.

The suspect is described as a White man, 38-40, 5’8”-6’, with shorth brown hair. He was driving a blue 4-door car with bucket seats, possibly a Chevrolet Corsica.

Crime Stoppers will pay cash rewards of up to $5,000.00 for information that results in the arrest and charging of a suspect or suspects in any felony crime.

Call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS / 713-222-8477. Your Identity will remain anonymous.

Tipsters may receive as much as $5,000.00 in specific felony cases where the public is deemed to be at a higher risk of being victimized.

Registration period for disaster assistance extended to October 7

HOUSTON – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of Texas announced that the registration period for individuals affected by Tropical Storm Allison has been extended until Sunday, October 7, 2001, due to the number of people still enrolling for federal assistance.

“We are still registering 200 to 250 people a day,” State Coordinating Officer Duke Mazurek of the Texas Division of Emergency Management (DEM) said, “and a large number of them are being found eligible for some form of assistance.”

“In addition,” Federal Coordinating Officer Scott Wells of FEMA said, “there are still many who have not returned their U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low interest disaster loan application. It is critical to fill out and return that application. Those found ineligible for an SBA loan may be referred to a state-run grant program for help.”

“We want to ensure that all registrants avail themselves to all aid for which they may be found eligible, and extending the deadline will give everyone a little extra time to pursue that opportunity,” Wells added.

Persons who suffered damage from the disaster and have not yet registered are urged to do so by calling the FEMA toll-free registration number at 1-800-462-9029. Hearing- or speech-impaired persons may call a TTY line at 1-800-462-7585.

Multilingual operators are available for assistance. The teleregistration lines are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

New traffic laws now in effect

Driving-related legislation that took effect September 1, 2001:

•HB 5 makes it a Class C misdemeanor to have open containers of alcohol in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle. The new law also increases penalties for repeat DWI offenders. If a second DWI conviction takes place within five years, there is an automatic one-year driver license suspension-and the driver must have an ignition interlock installed on their vehicle for the year following the suspension. During the suspension, the offender is not eligible for an occupational license.

•HB 63 increases the driver license suspension period for a person who refuses to take the breath test or fails the breath test—and requires the arresting officer to confiscate their driver license on the spot. The suspension periods and enhanced punishments for repeat offenders were also increased. For example, for a first offense, the suspension period for refusing a breath test will double from three months to six months. HB 63 also applies the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) laws to boating while intoxicated if the suspect refuses a breath test.

•SB 399 prohibits children under 18 from riding in the back of a pickup or flatbed truck. There are several notable exceptions, including if it is the only family vehicle or it is a government-sanctioned hayride. (The old law applied to children under 12 years of age, and only if the vehicle was traveling more than 35 miles per hour.

•SB 113, which:

•Requires children under age 4, or less than 36 inches, to be restrained in an approved car seat. (The old law required car seats for children under 2 years of age.)

•Requires all children ages 4 through 16 years old to use seat belts anywhere in the vehicle. (The old law only required seat belts for those 4 through 14 years old.)

•Specifies that all seat belt laws apply to trucks (including one-ton pickups).

•HB 1739 increases the minimum fines for violating the car seat law from $25 to $100. If a judge opts for probation, the offender would have to take a special TEA-approved child seat and seat belt education course.

•SB 215 and HB 2798 both increase the penalties for fleeing and evading arrest in a motor vehicle. A first offense is now a state jail felony as opposed to a Class A misdemeanor. (SB 215 also outlines provisions for testing suspects for communicable diseases if an officer is exposed to bodily fluids during certain arrests.)

•HB 299 authorizes the Texas Transportation Commission to establish a daytime speed limit of 75 miles per hour on highways located in counties with a population density of less than 10 persons per square mile.

•SB 968 establishes a six-month driver license suspension for a second conviction of gas theft. A photo of DPS Trooper Darryle Sparks will be posted on gas pumps throughout Texas to remind motorists of the new law and act as a deterrent.

•SB 214 abolishes the statute of limitations for leaving the scene of a fatal wreck.

•HB 2134 creates a specific offense for operating a motor vehicle emitting excessive smoke, visible for at least 10 seconds.

•HB 1544 makes it a Class B misdemeanor to directly solicit business or employment based on information derived from accident records or related records.

•The legal driving age in Texas remains 16. However, a graduated licensing bill (SB 577) goes into effect January 1, 2002.

•The texts of these bills can be found at www.capitol.state.tx.us . Select the enrolled version.

No answers in storm debris collection fiasco






















The devastation caused by Tropical Storm Allison in early June will take months, perhaps years to overcome. Throughout the city, residents are still dealing with losses, physical, financial and emotional. The good news is that, in most places, the focus now is on recovering and rebuilding.
Not in northeast Houston.

In northeast Houston, many residents are still trying to dig out from under the piles of rotting debris that line the streets in neighborhoods throughout the area.

As reported last week, Precinct 1 Commissioner El Franco Lee has cut back debris collection to two days a week. Precinct 2 Commissioner Jim Fonteno has discontinued it completely.

Why? The job is nowhere near finished.

Last week, Fonteno’s office told me that it was because the FEMA money to reimburse the county for debris collection had run out. That is not true.
My conversation with Ben Patterson, State Public Assistance Officer with Texas Department of Public Safety Division of Emergency Management Assigned to the FEMA Disaster Field Office (his title) in Austin confirmed what I learned last week from Opal Jackson: FEMA money to pick up storm debris is still available and will be for three more months.

The Commissioners don’t even have to make application; they are already in the system.
My question to Jackie Grogan of Precinct 1 and David Floyd of Precinct 2 was why? If FEMA will cover 75% of the cost and the job must be done, why would the commissioners choose not to do it?
I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer.

Late last week, State Representative Kevin Bailey’s assistant Arlene Nichols, joined me and Opal Jackson who is a local FEMA representative, in trying to get both answers and action. We had no luck.

In Precinct 1, some debris was picked up on Thursday and Friday and it appears that Commissioner Lee is making a sincere effort to address the problem. But even he must realize that at a two-day-a-week pace, the all clear is nowhere in sight.

If you have storm debris (not construction debris and not household trash) that still needs to be picked up call Commissioner Lee’s office at 713-755-6111 or Commissioner Fonteno at 713-755-6220. Then call again. Set you clock and call every hour on the hour.

And, while you’re on the phone, ask the commissioner why he chooses to forego the help FEMA is offering when there is still so much work to be done.

Maybe you can get an answer. I couldn’t.

Houston’s 311 line open for service

A new 311 service help line is expected to ease demand on the city’s 911 emergency response system and eliminate hundreds of city customer service telephone numbers.

Mayor Lee Brown touted the system as a management tool to improve accountability among city workers who are asked to resolve resident citizen complaints or requests for service.

Each request or complaint will be logged and assigned to a specific city employee responsible for solving the problem or retrieving the information needed by callers, officials said.

“What’s important is we can track the results and find out what has been done with that particular problem that is brought to our attention,” Brown said.

Complaints about the system itself and expectations the city may raise but be unable to fulfill began to roll in even before the 311 service was officially launched last Monday.

City Councilman Mark Goldberg said he tried the system recently but found he had to wait as long as 20 minutes to get a person on the telephone.When he finally got someone, the operator was unable to give him the information he was seeking, Goldberg said.

Donald Hollingsworth, the mayor’s executive assistant for public safety and drug policy who is overseeing the development of the 311 system, said the delay may have been because of work on the telephone switch during last week’s soft launch.
Nonetheless, Goldberg said he thought the system will be good “once the bugs are worked out.”

In addition, officials hope the line will reduce the number of unnecessary 911 calls and lead to faster emergency response times.

“Summer Catch” is strictly minor league

Add “Summer Catch” to the long list forgettable movies for the year.

The by-the-numbers, cliché ridden, jock finds love and the strength within story has a few inspired moments – very few – but in the end it’s just another ho-hum summer movie.

There’s nothing here you have not seen before, unless you have never seen a sports movie. Then the story about a young local athlete (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) trying to be successful, but fighting self-destructive tendencies, family and privileged outsiders might actually have an once of originality.

Prinze plays a hot college pitcher with a bad attitude. He’s a screw up who does not think rules apply to him. His big chance to prove he can do things right comes when he’s invited to participate in the Cape Code Baseball League, which is made up of college all-stars competing in front of pro scouts.

He and his friends grew up watching future big leaguers since they live on the Cape. His father (the craggy-faced Fred Ward) has a landscape business so Prinze’s character has mowed the baseball field he is now playing on since he was a kid.

As with most formulaic films, there is standard group of characters. There’s a party-boy surfer played by Matthew Lillard. Brian Dennehy is a rough, gruff, but fair coach. There’s a shy virgin that is being perused by his housemother. (Can we say male fantasy?) There’s a villain who is always trying to get our hero in trouble. There’s a mean rich guy (the always efficient Bruce Davidson) who reminds Prinze that he is blue collar.

There’s an incredibly beautiful girl who falls for the hero for no valid reason. And in the mix are a couple of minorities, for good measure.

Please, baseball is a pretty mixed bag racially speaking, but there’s little evidence of that in “Summer Catch.” Fat girls are predominately featured, though. Isn’t that nice? It is strange; most of the movie makes fun of girls who actually look like they eat – unlike the female star Jessica Biel – but in the end one of the guys makes an impassioned speech proclaiming his desire for chunky girls. How enlightening.

There are some funny lines. Prinze is likable, even when being a jerk. The older cast is comprised of fine character actors doing more than competent work considering the script.

Too many things don’t add up and what does comes off as shallow and superficial. Apparently, it is too much to ask to have real emotions and three-dimensional characters in movies this year.
Why only one scout, out of many, detects our hero’s talents makes no sense.

For one thing, he pitches out of the stretch all the time. Brittany Murphy appears to be his loving girlfriend at the beginning of the movie yet she steals his clothes for no good reason – other than to set up a silly situation. With little explanation, she is not his girlfriend, but does attract attention from other players for her ability to pour beer without her hands.

The humor and situations range from innocent juvenile “Mighty Ducks” stuff to nearly “American Pie” sexuality, even though “Summer Catch is rated PG-13. Rent “Bull Durham” instead. Or the first “Major League.” Rated-PG-13