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Posts published in December 2007

Living the life of Riley

By Kristan Hoffman

What looks like a panda, barks like a Beagle, and won’t walk in the rain?


Riley is my new puppy. I’ve had him for about three weeks, but let me tell you, it feels more like three years. My boyfriend and I adopted him from a great local shelter, and we have been busy adjusting our lives ever since.

At nine weeks, Riley focuses on eating, drinking, playing, and sleeping — in that order. We, on the other hand, focus on teaching him his name and getting him to potty in the yard instead of the house. The first week was rough, but I think he’s getting the hang of things now. Patience and consistency are the keys.

As much as I’m trying to teach him, I have to admit, I’m learning ten times more. I read books and websites about the stages of puppyhood and various training techniques. I poll other dog-owners to find out what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong, and what I could be doing better. I get the scoop on vets and kennels, on dog food and toys. I live, breathe, and yes, sometimes even dream about Riley. Because he’s my responsibility, and my pleasure.

It’s not really about the dog information, though. What I’m actually learning is how to be a better person. By putting him first and taking all these steps to ensure his proper growth, I am growing too. I am maturing into a (more) responsible, mindful, and unselfish caretaker.

As an added bonus, my relationship is thriving. Before Andy and I got Riley, my cousin told me that adopting a dog was the best thing she and her husband had ever done. At the time I sort of chuckled and said “Sure” in a dubious tone, but now I understand. Since Riley came into our lives, Andy and I have been doing better than ever. We’re learning to work as a team toward a common goal, to depend on each other and do our fair share, and to appreciate each other to the fullest degree.

All of this basically translates to one simple thing: Riley rocks. Sure, he eats up all my time, and patience, and shoes… but he is so worth it! When I hold up a treat and say, “Riley, sit,” and he stares at me with those big brown eyes, I melt. I know he doesn’t get it, but that’s okay. I don’t get him either.

In time, though, we will understand each other, and that will be the real treat for both of us.

METRO, HCC Northeast preview Public Safety Institute program

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– METRO and Houston Community College Northeast have combined resources, to offer a program to train police, fire and emergency personnel.
HCC/Northeast held a presentation and demonstration event for the press, on December 11th to show the PSI (Public Safety Institue) facilities, and to receive a check for $500,000 from METRO to the HCCS Foundation, to fund the institute’s programs for Metro officers. This money is to be used for more PSI programs, long-term training, and scholarships.
At the event, media personnel experienced the heat, smoke and confusion that firefighters face when they enter a blazing highrise, in PSI’s training tower. They also had the opportunity to ride along with police officers as they cashe suspects, on the high speed emergency vehicle operations track. And finally, they tested their shooting skills on PSI’s 15 lane firearms training range.
All of these facilities are at Houston Community College’s Northeast Facility, near the intersection of I-10 and I-610.

This event showcased PSI’s role in training emergency professionals from throughout the Houston region, and its selection as a training partner for METRO’s police officers and other employees. METRO’s tactical equipment vehicles were on hand for tours and demonstrations, including a bomb truck, a command bus, motorcycles, canine units and a Special Operations Response Team.
HCC and METRO signed an agreement in November in which the transit agency pledged $500,000 for future development of PSI facilities and training programs.
Since the Institute opened in July, thousands of professionals and students have enrolled in the 100-plus courses taught through the PSI, which offers associate degrees, certificates and continuing education certifications.

Mead named Aldine ISD board president

The Aldine ISD Board of Education reorganized during its Dec. 18 meeting. The board’s nominating committee, chaired by Trustee Rose Avalos, named Steve Mead as school board president, Dr. Viola M. Garcia as vice-president, Dr. Alton Smith as secretary and Avalos as assistant secretary.
Marine Jones, who served as board president during the 2006-07 school year and for part of the 2007-08 school year, handed over the gavel to Mead during the meeting. Trustees Rick Ogden, Merlin Griggs, and Jones will serve as members.

Mead then assigned his fellow trustees to the board’s standing committees. The policy revision committee will be chaired by Marine Jones and will consist of Merlin Griggs and Rose Avalos.
The site committee will be chaired by Rose Avalos and will consist of Rick Ogden and Dr. Alton Smith. The school names committee will be chaired by Dr. Alton Smith and will consist of Dr. Viola M. Garcia and Rick Ogden.
The nominating committee will be chaired by Merlin Griggs and will consist of Rick Ogden and Marine Jones. The selection of new board members committee will be chaired by Dr. Viola M. Garcia and will consist by Rick Ogden and Merlin Griggs.
After Mrs. Jones passed the gavel, board members Dr. Viola M. Garcia and Rick Ogden thanked her for her service to the board while serving as president. Dr. Garcia also presented Mrs. Jones with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in recognition of her service to the board and the school district.
Prior to the reorganization of the board, Dr. Garcia, Mr. Griggs, Dr. Smith and Mrs. Jones were sworn in by General Counsel Jonathan Hantke to serve their four-year terms. The four were re-elected to their respective positions in November.

Christmas is about families

The Christmas season seems to hit me with a vengeance in my more advanced years. The season starts too early and then, all of a sudden, it is over. I’m never ready for the season to begin and I am never ready for it to end.
About the only time I do any shopping is during this season and am not much in favor of the tasks at hand then. If someone would ever tell me I would never been about to shop again I don’t think I would mind at all. It just isn’t my style. Am not too long away for having to shop for a car again and that is always at the bottom of my list. I look at a few cars and am ready to give it all up. Thank goodness my better half is more patient.
Earlier this month Crosby had its Christmas Festival, Highlands had its Festival and Tree Lighting and the Star-Courier is coming upon the issue that includes all of the wee one’s “Letters to Santa.” I look forward to that event and it will probably be the same edition that these words are published.

The kids lead the way at Christmas time and that is good. However, it is a time for all of us—for family enjoyment, for gift exchanges, for giving to others who have that need and for giving thanks to the Lord for all the blessings of the past year. The Springer’s have had many.
I had the old Santa Claus thing all figured out when I was amongst the younger set. The Pittsburgh—Wheeling area had a department store chain named Stone & Thomas. The main store in downtown Wheeling had about ten floors and the sixth floor always turned into a complete toy land.
I lived for my visits to that toy land and the huge model train displays. The visits were all too short and ended with a visit to the store Santa. As long as I can remember I always knew THAT was the real Santa. Those at other stores were only his “helpers.” You couldn’t fool me!
Have one more major task before it is time to leave these parts and head for Texas. Will be in the pulpit of my home church on December 30 (my fifth trip there this year) as our minister will be on vacation that last 2007 Sunday. Two days later we will crawl into our aging Cad and head for your parts pardoner. By the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Jan. 6) we should be nestled along Sea Palms Drive, Newport.
It will be good to see Crosby, the daily visits with Sea Palms neighbors, walking Maggie along Sea Palms and Challenger, attending service again with Texas friends at the Crosby Methodist Church and seeing relatively new friends elsewhere in Crosby, Huffman, Dayton, Etc.
You live in a fine community area and we always enjoy our visits.
Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!!
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!

Too dark to Walk?

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– Residents along Bentley Street have complained for years about how dark their street is, and how unsafe this makes walking and driving.
Bentley is unusually busy, because it serves an elementary school, Scarborough Elementary, the Northeast Harris County community center, popular restaurants and businesses, a youth NFL center, a Metro bus line, and a transfer or pickup station for HISD students being bussed to distant schools.
Scarborough principal Susan Bargaleski said that even though many of her students are brought to school by car, nevertheless after school many are bussed by the Boys and Girls Club to the NFL Youth Education Center at Driver Park, and safe travel is a concern. Many children gather at a bus stop on Bentley, prior to and after transfer to distant schools.
In early morning, and evening, it is dark and pedestrians and motorists must use special care to avoid accidents. In the ten blocks between Little York and Hopper, for instance, there is only one street light, about 100 feet from Little York on the west side of Bentley. No other public lighting exists, not even at the two busy entrances to the Northeast Community Center and the Driver/NFL center.

The question of who would provide and pay for lighting is part of the problem, and one that vexes much of the unincorporated areas of the county, and some areas of the city.
Bentley is multijurisdictional, with the city and Precinct 2 of the County sharing responsibility, and therefore sometime not able or willing to provide services.
In general, sidewalks and street lighting are not provided by these two government entities, and therefore State Representative Kevin Bailey, a few years ago, helped pass legislation to form management districts to furnish and pay for some services, especially ones that dealt with public safety and health. New sidewalks and street lighting on Aldine Mail Route, and Airline, are a result of these district’s efforts.
However, a street like Bentley is on a lower priority list, as are many residential streets in the service areas. East Aldine Management District director of services Mike Ledbetter said that a street needs to be a busy commercial street to be considered by the district for a future lighting program. It is unclear whether Bentley qualifies, and since only a small part of the street is in the city, they also are not committed to improvements.
A long term mobility plan suggests that Bentley may become a major north-south road, connecting with JFK near Aldine-Mail Route. But before that happens, residents would like to see some improvement in the lighting and safety.

Greenspoint District honors Volunteers, Partners for help

GREENSPOINT– Greenspoint District held its annual Volunteer Appreciation Reception recently at the Greenspoint Club to honor the partners that provided invaluable assistance to the district in 2007.
The event was hosted by district President Jack Drake, who was joined by board chairman James Curry, Hines, and vice-chair Michelle Wogan, Transwestern. The yearly event drew a crowd of over a hundred partners in business, industry, recreation, transportation, public service and public safety.
A special guest this year, Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt, expressed his admiration for Greenspoint District and all that has been accomplished in the area of public safety. He and other law enforcement officers received a standing ovation for their work and sacrifice.
Representative Kevin Bailey, who filed the legislation that opened the door for the district’s creation, received a unique Community Builder Award—his signature in neon.
“Kevin Bailey filed a bill to create a district that would create a Greater Greenspoint,” said district President Jack Drake, “And his commitment has not changed one iota in these years—whether it is our district or the thousands of neighbors and business and workers and schools he represents as a leader in our state house.”

Also receiving awards were the North Houston Association, which received the 2007 Special Achievement Award for its part in creating the Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition.
The Greater Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority received the 2007 Partner of the Year Award for attracting new quality development and further ensuring our place as a major activity center.
The 2007 Company of the Year Award went to Exterran which will be relocating to Greenspoint in the spring, bringing 800 employees and filling 250,000 square feet of office space.
John Beltz Jr. of Grant Prideco Inc. was named 2007 Volunteer of the Year for giving of his time on the Greenspoint District board of directors, marketing and public affairs committee, and branding task force.
Community Spirit Awards went to Tim Lincoln and Ray Chong, City of Houston; Ray Bejarano of Greenspoint Mall, Rick Carden, Houston Marriott North at Greenspoint; and Jerry Paduano, Wyndham Greenspoint for going “above and beyond” in their respective fields in service of the Greenspoint area. “We are grateful for these and all our partners that are so committed to the Greenspoint area,” said board Chairman James Curry.
Partners Awards
Greenspoint Community Partners, the 501(c)3 foundation created by Greenspoint District to sustain and grow financial and community support for safety and quality of life programs, recognized its community partners at this event as well.
Awards were presented by Executive Director Shelia Redmon-Jones to her board Chairman Jerry Lowry and his wife Cathy, Jack and Betty Drake, Aldine-Greenspoint YMCA, American Bureau of Shipping, Sally Bradford of Greater Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority, CITGO Petroleum, MATTCO Manufacturing, Swift Energy Company, Smith International, Greenspoint Mall and Grant Prideco Inc.
The event was underwritten by Capital One, and sponsored by Montgomery & Associates, Grant PrideCo Inc., Northbelt Office Centers V, L.L.P., Swift Energy, Transwestern, and Clark Condon Associates.
The Greater Greenspoint District is a business improvement district providing services in public safety, infrastructure and recreational development, transportation planning and beautification, public relations and economic development. The District serves a 12-square-mile area, including more than 18 million square feet of office, retail and industrial properties. 70,000 people work in the area, and there are some 94,000 residents.
The Greater Greenspoint Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone is a partnership between the City of Houston, Harris County, Spring and Aldine Independent School Districts, and the Lone Star College System. It funds public capital projects within the zone and provides financial incentives for developers to build or redevelop in Greenspoint.

Deputies kill fugitive after chase ending on US59

By Gilbert Hoffman, NE News
Sheriff’s deputies and a multi-agency task force combined to track and kill a wanted fugitive last Tuesday night.
Roy William Hooper had been sought after he was identified as the suspect in a fatal shooting of Thomas Ford at a robbery at a party last week on Cypress North Houston.
The task force located Hooper at a house near Foy and Little York, about 5 p.m. Tuesday, in Northeast Houston, and when he tried to escape with another man in a black pickup truck, they asked Harris County sheriff’s deputies, also on alert in the area, to pursue the men. After a 20 minute chase through city streets, the truck was stopped on US59 north of Lauder Road.
Hooper emerged from the truck with a gun in hand, and three deputies fired about 30 rounds at him, Lt. John Martin told the Northeast News. Hooper was taken to Ben Taub, and pronounced dead. The driver was arrested, unhurt. The freeway was partially closed for about 4 hours during the investigation.

North Forest ISD lets its Pride Shine

Dozens of parents and community members lined Homestead on Saturday, Nov. 10 to catch a glimpse of pride as North Forest ISD celebrated Pride Week 2007 with a myriad of events. The week was highlighted by the district parade, which included school and community participants.
NFISD Interim Superintendent of Schools William Jones said he was excited by the showing. “Pride Week served as proof of the support the people of North Forest have for this community and this district,” he said. Each of the district’s campuses participated in the event with dancers, cheerleaders, drum corps, majorettes, campus kings and queens and much more. A Battle of the Bands was also held on Nov. 10, featuring NFISD bands.
During the week leading up to the parade and Battle of the Bands, there were other Pride events, including essay and poster contests for students, a Student Exchange Day and pep rallies to celebrate the week. One of the livelier campus activities took place at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, where the Lions held a Pride Week pep rally, featuring the school’s cheerleading squad. At Fonwood Elementary, cheerleaders, dancers and the drum corp staged a parade in the school hallways for their classmates during Pride Week.
Students at the elementary and middle schools took part in Student Exchange Day during the week, with some playing host to students visiting from other campuses. A committee led by NFISD’s Fine Arts Instructional Coordinator Toni Dunn organized Pride Week Events.
The Pride Bowl between M.B. Smiley and Forest Brook High Schools also drew a crowd, with Smiley’s Golden Eagles besting their sister school and advancing to 21-4A playoff action. An overall record of 8-2 and district record of 6-1 earned the Eagles the co-championship title for their division.


By Gilbert Hoffman, Publisher
NORTH FOREST– Rod Paige, former U.S. Secretary of Education, was the featured speaker at last Saturday’s meeting of the North East Education First organization, at Shadydale school auditorium.
Paige brought a message of hope to the group, recalling his own modest beginnings in southern Mississippi, and how a good education and good behavioral upbringing in his home instilled the qualities that eventually brought him to his education post at the White House.
His meaning to North Forest was that they could aspire and succeed also. But the problem is not the students, he said, but the adults. The school system must want a superior educational experience, and know how to achieve it.
To that end, Paige represents a national educational consulting firm, Chartwell, that he co-founded. It specializes in system-wide, district turnaround and restructuring to achieve an effective learning environment.
The meeting was moderated by Robin German Curtis, and opening remarks were made by Jackie Mayhorn, Albert Coleman, and Paula Settles. Also present was Sharon Jacobson, a Houston education consultant working with NEEF.
Notably absent from the meeting were any members of the school board. However, interim superintendent William Jones was present.
In closing remarks, Curtis challenged the community. She said the group wants a quality education, and to keep North Forest ISD independent. No consolidation, no busing. But as Paige asked, “How bad do you want it? North Forest, you have a lot of work ahead of you.”

HCC Northeast awarded TWC grant for piping design students

AUSTIN – The Gulf Coast area workforce will benefit from a $426,727 job-training grant from the Skills Development Fund that the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) administers. The Society of Piping Engineers and Designers has partnered with Houston Community College to provide the training.
The grant will be used to create 60 new jobs and upgrade the skills of 90 piping designers and drafters, among others. Upon completion of training, workers will receive an average hourly wage of $22.07.
“Through this job-training grant, jobs will be created and workers will receive the training they need to become more successful in the workplace,” state Rep. Gary Elkins said. “I applaud the hard work put forth by Houston Community College, TWC and this piping engineers and designers consortium.”
“The partnership of private enterprise and public education has been a powerful force in economic development in Texas,” said TWC Chair and Commissioner Diane Rath. “This Skills Development Fund grant continues those efforts, and we are all indebted to the Governor and the Legislature for their continued support of customized training that benefits both employers and workers.”
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2007, Skills Development Fund grants created or upgraded 20,831 jobs, which paid an average hourly wage of $19.04. These grants assisted 281 Texas employers with their customized training needs. The Legislature has appropriated $50 million to the Skills Development Fund for the 2008-09 biennium.
Employers seeking more information about the Skills Development Fund may visit the TWC Web site at