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Posts published in “Day: February 5, 2008”

The gift behind the gift

By Angie Liang

Instead of gaming consoles, iPods or new DVDs for Christmas, I wanted something a little different. Upon my request, my mom bought me a pair of tights that cost, well, probably too much. Keep in mind that these are fashion industry standard, polar Wolford tights. As warm as pants, they are perfect for cold temperatures and even snowy weather. Yet, no matter how I try to justify these tights, most people would never understand buying them.

I know, because I thought the same thing a month earlier. A good friend was buying cold weather, business-appropriate accessories with her parents at a high-end department store. To me it seemed ridiculous to make such a fuss over belts and Ugg boots. But while those may not have been my choice picks, I am just as guilty of overspending on items that I consider necessities and others consider trivial.

So why would our parents, who have preached about the value of hard-earned money, even consider buying us such expensive items? Because they love us and believe in us. At the risk of sounding materialistic, the truth is, our society tends to attach beliefs to purchases. Some people buy hope, others buy dreams. We associate these values with certain objects and brands, and they become part of how we communicate our feelings, whether affection, appreciation, or anything else. (The rest should come from the heart, of course.) When you buy an engagement ring for your girlfriend, or a car for your 16-year-old, or a computer for the college-bound son, you are expressing your hopes for their success.

With the end of the holiday season, it’s important to remember that the value of the gifts we gave and received has nothing to do with their price tags. Whether they cost a fortune or a penny, it’s the thought and meaning from our family and friends that really counts.

For my friend, who is attending a prestigious law school in the Northeast, her parents see these purchases as aids for law firm interviews and the impending winter. As for myself, my parents believe that the impression I make on people (like my summer employer who I returned to work for over Winter Break) is worth a pair of tights. Our parents have confidence that we can make our futures happen, and they want to express that as much as they can. I am grateful that they see our success in sight.

So my tights may have cost more than most, and they may seem like a strange present in comparison to what most people want for the holidays, but my mom and I are okay with that. We know it’s not really about the tights. It’s about the love and support of my parents. My mom just wants to keep me a little bit warmer in the snow as I keep forging my path. And because I know she’s standing behind me, I’ll do my best to make her proud.

Kristan and Angie would love to hear from you! Email JBUcolumn@gmail.com.

East Aldine budgets $20M for new projects

By Gilbert Hoffman
NORTHEAST HOUSTON– The monthly North Houston networking luncheon was held last week at MacArthur High School instead of the usual Sheriff’s storefront location.
The reason was to familiarize the public with the school’s facilities, but also to draw attention to the upcoming FFA livestock show and sale this Thursday and Friday at Campbell Center.
But the main feature of the meeting was the report from East Aldine Management District chairman Clyde Bailey that the budget workshop recently held by the district, resulted in a commitment to $20,000,000 of CIP Capital Improvement projects and programs that will be undertaken in the year 2008, with some carrying over to following years for completion.
These projects include new sewer and water projects, increased security and safety measures, economic development, street, landscaping and signage improvements, expanded grant monies for leadership development for local organizations, bus stop enhancements, neighborhood clean-up, grafitti abatement, nuisance abatement, and mosquito control.
This greatly expanded budget is the result of revenues that have steadily increased, since the inception of the improvement district in 2001. The first full year of income in 2002 was $860,000, and in the latest fiscal year 2007 the income from sales taxes came to $3, 400,000.
According to David Hawes, executive director of the management district, the Capital Improvement Plan budget is actually based on a combination of funding sources: bonds to be sold, federal and state planning grants, and state grants for fresh water and flood control work. However, he emphasized that the budget is a working plan, subject to modifications as funding sources are pursued for various projects. He said that some funds would be shifted as monies are received and designated for projects.
Hawes indicated that the budget workshop was very successful, because it emphasized a consistent and continuing budget of services for the Aldine population of 50,000, the equivalent of a small city.

Board Appreciation night held by North Forest ISD

North Forest school trustees were honored as part of a statewide event, by the public and their school peers in a reception held last Thursday evening at the administration building. The recognition came in spite of the plethora of financial and academic problems faced by the district.
The reception had a Mardi Gras theme, with gifts to each board member from the district and students at Lakewood Elementary school. Thanks for their service were extended by Interim Superintendent William Jones on behalf of the district.
Also on hand was Dr. James Simpson, who is expected to be named the new superintendent in a special meeting later in the month.

Local junkyard closed in violation of ordinances

A Final Judgment has been reached in the legal challenge against Ortiz Auto Parts located at 8410 Airline Drive. The legal action resulted from numerous complaints involving the operation of the automotive salvage yard that resulted in environmental investigators finding ongoing violations of the state environmental protection laws. The defendants will close the auto salvage yard by February 1 and may not sublet any part of the property for use as an auto salvage yard in the future.
“I am pleased that the county took legal action against this business that has been violating our laws for many years. For too long we have witnessed junkyards illegally dumping in our neighborhoods without suffering any consequences. Finally we will start to see these eyesores cleaned up and the contamination removed,” said Rep. Kevin Bailey. “I will be happy to give the county attorney a list of about 50 other junkyards that need to be submitted to a similar level of scrutiny and if found to be polluting our ground water prosecuted.”
Bailey passed legislation last year that provides the county with a stronger mechanism for enforcing existing state laws. County governments have the authority to regulate automotive salvage yards and junkyards in its unincorporated areas, but the annual permit fee of $25 was insufficient to defray the cost of regulation. Harris County did not have the resources to exclusively devote to regulating them. The Bailey law increased the annual fee to $500 in order to provide sufficient funding for a dedicated workforce to police the businesses.

According to the final judgment, soil at the junkyard was visibly contaminated with petroleum products. Test results indicated that motor oil was most likely the cause of the contamination. Storm water runoff from the property exceeded state guidelines of acceptable levels for petroleum products, aluminum, lead and suspended solids. According to the agreement with the county, the owner of the property and the owner of the junkyard are required to remove all contaminated soil and dispose of it at a legally authorized site. The defendants will have to provide to Harris County copies of all disposal receipts. Follow up testing will be done to ensure that all contaminated soil has been removed. In addition, more than $42,000 in civil penalties will have to be paid.
“I have been working closely with Harris County, East Aldine Management
District and the Airline Improvement District to implement a pilot project to gather sufficient data to document the severity of the problems being caused by rogue junkyards,” said Bailey.
“County officials want a pilot project to determine whether a full regulatory program is needed. When junkyards that are polluting our waterways are locating within a few feet of homes with backyard water wells that are 25 -50 feet deep, the need for stricter enforcement of the law should not be questioned. The potential of groundwater contamination at any of these locations is significant. The need for regulation is obvious. The environmental impact to the health of area residents should be their primary concern.”
The Bellmar Civic Club had previously sued Ortiz Auto Parts. The lawsuit that was initially filed in April 2004 resulted in a judgment against the junkyard for operating within 300 feet of existing residential property. A final judgment in the case was issued in September 2005 and gave the business 90 days to remove any operation within 300 feet of the homes, but residents say the judgment was ignored.