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Posts published in “Day: February 12, 2008

Greenspoint District is in strong growth mode

By Gilbert Hoffman
The Greenspoint District held their annual luncheon last week, to report to the community on progress and future plans in the district.
Jack Drake, president, was the emcee of the event, which included speakers who represented strong new improvements for the area. Drake also introduced a new Logo, and a new marketing campaign, entitled “Greenspoint, Strategically Positioned, Globally Connected”.
The keynote speaker was Houston Mayor Bill White. Other speakers included Sally Bradford, Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority, Dennis Brown, COO of TriYar Companies, the owner of Greenspoint Mall, Michael Downs, real estate vice president of Sysco food corporation, Doug Johnson, vice president of IDI, a real estate developer, and Gregory Mondshine, of Myers Crow & Saviers, office building developers.
In his opening remarks, Drake mentioned the strategic location of Greenspoint, both locally and globally. It is at the center of the regional economy, which generates $15 billion in activity annually.
Greenspoint strengths include being at the crossroad of major freeways and fiber-optic lines, close to all major Houston destinations and desirable residential areas, close to a major international airport, and home to many major energy companies and international corporations.
Drake emphasized that these benefits are just a foundation for future growth and prosperity in the district. He cited three recent project announcements as examples: Exterran, a major compressor company, is moving their corporate headquarters to two Greenspoint office buildings, McMoRan Exploration will occupy a third office building, and Sysco Corporation is building a new 585,000 square foot food distribution center.
Each of the featured speakers then detailed accomplishments and plans in their areas.

Sally Bradford spoke of the infrastructure improvements, including road and bridge construction, parks and public plazas with artwork. Future projects include a 5 acre Buckboard Park on Airline, street improvements to Airline, and a new bridge on Greenspoint Drive. With help from partners, she forsaw $30 million in improvements in the next few years.
Mike Downs of Sysco showed slides of the large new food distribution center and test kitchen to be built at the intersection of I-45 and Beltway 8.
Greg Mondshine presented slides of a project known as Greens Crossing, a multi-use office park on Beltway 8.
Doug Johnson, of I.D.I., showed slides of Greeenspoint Business Center, in the TIRZ zone between I-45 and Greenspoint Drive. It is a mixed use project primarily as a distribution center.
Dennis Brown had the latest news on redevelopment of the Greenspoint Mall, with construction set to start this year. He portrayed it as an entertainment destination, as well as a shopping experience. The work will cost $25,000,000 of public and private funding, and generate 500 new jobs, he said.
Mayor Bill White noted how special Houston is, with our economy going up, including Greenspoint, while most others in the nation are going down.
The Mayor commented on his 5 priorities to improve the city:
1. Crime reduction. Operation Greensweep has helped reduce crime. Police force size is up 15%, and violent crime in Houston is down 8% since White took office.
2. Drainage. White increased the budget from $15m to $50m, without new fees or assessments.
3. Taxes. Although assessments have gone up, which the city doesn’t control, this year he will enact the largest rate cut since he took office.
4. Electricity Rates. It is imperative, he said, to reduce demand, and to “de-link” energy costs to electricity rates. He cites LEED construction, and a new energy code, as steps in this.
5. Affordable Housing. White sees Houston as a leader nationally in this. The city has foreclosed on 3000 tax delinquent homes, and has already returned 1500 to the tax rolls, after clearing and rebuilding on their sites.

Lone Star College-North Harris welcomes 1st official student

Fabrice Bazilme, 28, was up early to enroll in classes at Lone Star College– North Harris. An air traffic controller at the Houston Air Traffic Control Center, he knew it was critical to be able to sign up for the classes that best fit into his work schedule.
“I was there at 5 a.m.,” said Bazilme, formerly an air traffic controller in the U.S. Air Force. “Before, when I was attending City College in New York and because I signed up a day or two after registration began, I could never get the classes I needed at the times I wanted. Because of my work schedule, I wanted to make certain I was there early enough to get the classes I needed at the times that would work for me.”
Little did he know that his extra effort to be the first in the registration line would make him the first student to officially enroll at Lone Star College–North Harris…and the new student said while he was honored by the designation, his eyes are on completing his bachelor’s degree in business management.
Bazilme, who is Haitian American, came to the United States with his parents in 1982 when he was two years of age. “My family moved to the U.S. for the reasons many come to this country,” he explained. “They wanted to come here for a chance at the American dream – for themselves and for their seven children.”
A good student in high school, Bazilme said when he enrolled at City College in New York he simply wasn’t ready for the college experience but he never lost sight of his goal to earn his college degree.

At age 20, he went into the U.S. Air Force, where he admits he did a lot of growing up. “I needed some discipline in my life at that time, so the Air Force provided me with an opportunity to learn my job as an air traffic controller, showed me the benefits of hard work and gave me a chance to make some lifelong friendships,” he said.
He also found some role models that added momentum to his own motivation. “Whether I’m playing sports or doing my job as an air traffic controller, I always want to improve my skills and abilities,” Bazilme explained. “When I was in the Air Force, I had a master sergeant – Robert Breashears – and he motivated me. I wanted to be as good as he was and have the skills to advance as he did.”
In 2006, Bazilme left the Air Force after six years of service to move forward toward his degree, but not before serving as a contract air traffic controller in Afghanistan for a Midwest-based company.
After establishing his new home in Spring, he was ready to go back to work on his degree. “It’s always been my goal to get my degree,” the new student explained. “Even though I went into the Air Force, I still had that goal of completing my college degree. I had started it many years ago. Now I need to finish it.”
After completing his core educational courses at North Harris–where he is currently enrolled in English, government, economics, and speech for the spring semester– he’d like to complete his bachelor’s and then go into business for himself. “In a perfect world, I’d like to start my own business, maybe in accounting, real estate or opening a couple of small businesses,” Bazilme said. “Eventually, I’d like to be making more working for myself than working for someone else.”
He selected North Harris as the place for a new beginning toward his lifelong goal because it’s not too far from his job and an easy commute from his home. “I’d say location and convenience were two of the primary reasons I chose North Harris,” he said, “and because of my work schedule, that convenience and proximity to my job were both very important to my decision.”
Bazilme is very clear on his desire to move ahead. “I’ve always been self-motivated,” he explained. “I always want to get better. I never want to stagnate. If I’m good today, I want to be better tomorrow. You learn, in air traffic, to avoid mistakes. In air traffic, the earlier you identify a problem, the earlier you can solve it. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
While he was overseas, the student said he learned that, at times, you have to deal with certain situations for the greater good.
“I’m single, but when I marry and bring children into the world, I want to prepare…so that the child will come into a good place. Growing up in Haiti, my childhood experiences were dismal and opportunities non-existent, but there was love in my family and my parents did the best they could. I want my life and the lives of my children to be a little better,” said Bazilme.

Five years after the Columbia disaster

For the past five years I have written about this same subject in early February and probably will be doing that for some time to come. February 1st has always been a special day for me as it was my late father’s birthday. He would be 104 if alive today. Then, on that date five years ago, the Columbia shuttle tragedy occurred bringing sadness to this country and especially to the families and friends of the seven astronauts killed in that explosion.
I was doing the man-thing on that fateful Saturday morning of channel-surfing with the remote trying to find something of interest to watch. Suddenly I say a familiar face. It was Kerry Kinsey a former sportscaster on one of the Charleston-Huntington stations back home. He was then a news broadcaster on the 24-hour news station in Houston, now missing from our channels.
Kinsey gave me my first knowledge of problems with the Columbia shuttle that was to be passing over Texas about that time. He said it was missing. The national news channels were ahead of him and I switched to Fox News where I got the rest of the story. We all know it was confirmed the shuttle had exploded and hundreds of pieces of debris were falling from the sky across Texas and into Louisiana. It was truly a sad day.

I had reason to travel to Clear Lake the next day where I found thousands of flower arrangements already assembled at the NASA main gate. I was drawn to stop and become a part of the large group of people assembled there. One of the first persons I met was a minister from Dallas who felt he had been called to the site to assist people with their grieving. He had come with a house trailer and was spending some days there. I talked with him for a few minutes and noticed he became part of a number of people’s lives for a short period who had also stopped to pay respects.
This was the third fatal attempt in the space program. The first was in the Apollo program when a shuttle exploded on the launch pad and took the lives of Virgil “Gus” Grissom, one of the seven original astronauts, and two others. The second was the Challenger flight which had on board the school teacher Christa McAuliffe. Millions of children and adults saw it explode on TV shortly after it was sent into the sky.
The space program was put on hold for a while after the Columbia disaster but now is up and running again. I’m glad, if for no other reason than to support those whose lives had been lost in trying to make it a success. We are better off today for the efforts of all who have been active in our space program over the years.
The space program is moving ahead and will continue for years to come. Oh, yes, there will probably be more accidents, more deaths, and we will memorialize those heroes as well. As I said two years ago in this column, “This, my friends is America, where the strong come forth, the strong sometimes fall and die, the strong rebound, the strong succeed and these astronauts, and those who follow them will always be there lest we forget.
Shall we always remember those who gave so much for our country!
Such are the people, places and thing that have touched my life from my West Virginia home!

Juno is no Little Miss Sunshine

Running time: 91 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13

I see a couple hundred movies a year. Most, about 70 percent, are average. Not great, but not horrible. Ten percent are pure dreck. Fifteen percent are above average. And then there’s that top 5 percent, the films that remind critics why we love movies.
“Juno” is one of those upper five percentile films that reviewers like me gush about. It’s smartly written, beautifully acted and directed with finesse.
The film stars the captivating Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff, an almost-too-hip-to-be-real 16-year-old who becomes pregnant following first-time sex with her boyfriend Bleeker (Michael Cera) because they were bored.
Now here’s why “Juno” is such a great flick. At the beginning, you get the impression it’s gonna be like “Little Miss Sunshine,” one of those indie films that’s too self-consciously glib. But it isn’t. After about 10 minutes, everyone settles into their roles, and the humor comes not from the snappy dialogue, but from the realness of the performances.
Then, after Juno accepts the fact that she’s pregnant, you begin to cringe a little because you think it’s gonna be a political movie about abortions. But it isn’t a political film. Juno’s pregnancy and her choices (she decides to go through with the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption) are treated in a very real, very human way.
Credit for this must be given to screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, and also to the supporting cast: Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons as Juno’s dad and step-mom, and Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman as the yuppie couple wanting to adopt Juno’s child.
I don’t want to go overboard in my praise for this film, because I know that when most people hear a critic gas on and on about a movie, it never lives up to the hype. So, I’m just gonna say, “See Juno.” It’s the best film I’ve seen in more than a year.