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Posts published in “Day: September 2, 2008”

HCC officially opens Northline Campus, students pack the halls

NORTHEAST HOUSTON – A milestone was reached last Tuesday, as the Houston Community College-Northeast, opened their new building and inaugurated their new campus at 8001 Fulton Street at Lyerly, next to the Northline Mall.

Many dignitaries were on hand for the 10 a.m. ceremony, but what was even more striking was hundreds of students lining the halls, and preparing to sign up for classes in this new first class facility.

The speakers included HCC Chancelor Mary Spangler, and HCC-NE President Margaret Ford Fisher, Trustee Chairwoman Yolanda Navarro Flores, Trustees Bruce Austin and Diane Olmos Guzman, County Judge Ed Emmett, Commissioner El Franco Lee, Councilman Ronald Green, and Marina Mendoza, president of the Sam Houston Parents Club, and Shavonne Gibbs, president of the HCC Student Government Association.

The new four-story academic building, totalling about 116,500 square feet in size, is the first facility for the new state-of-the-art 21-acre campus. Eventually, other facilities will become a part of the master plan to complete the campus.

There are 25 classrooms for instruction, that are designed to transform teaching and learning by using smart technology.

The Northline Campus is equipped with two math computer labs, two biology labs, one chemistry lab, one business technology lab, a cosmetology lab, a computer drafting lab, and a 10,000 square foot library. Also included is an Art Gallery with two adjacent drawing studios, and a Community Room.

The Northline Campus has a one-stop shop for registration and admissions, a bookstore, student life center, and job placement center. Northline campus also provides counseling, financial aid, tutoring, assessment testing and a cashier’s office.

HCC Northeast was established in July 1991, when the HCC Board of Trustees reorganized the System into regional colleges designed to put education back into the neighborhoods. The former Northline Mall Center opened for classes in Spring 1993, with approximately 50 students.

The mall location introduced a new educational concept, becoming the first “Campus in a Mall” in the greater Houston area to become a full-service community college. Over the years, Northline Center increased enrollment, and currently serves over 3,500 students per semester.

Through a partnership with HISD, Northline Campus will have an Early College High School adjacent to the building on Lyerly Street, where high school students will attend and receive college credit while still in high school.

Northline Campus also offers Adult Education and Continuing Education courses.

Keith-Wiess Park now open for Public use

By HEATHER SAUCIER
For the Northeast News

Celebrating the grand opening of a new park and stormwater detention basin, residents, public officials and elected officials gathered at the city of Houston’s Keith-Wiess Park on Aug. 15 to see firsthand its innovative, two-fold purpose for this northeast Houston community.

Visitors toured the newly-excavated detention basin by the Harris County Flood Control District, which can store 300 million gallons of stormwater (about two-thirds of the Astrodome) that might otherwise overflow from Halls Bayou and flood adjacent homes.

At the site of the basin, which resembles a natural lake, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department installed a fishing pier and wetlands boardwalk in addition to hike-and-bike trails, soccer fields and a new playground at the 500-acre park.

Art Storey, executive director of the Harris County Public Infrastructure Department, and Mike Talbott, director of the Flood Control District, praised partnerships for making such projects possible.

In this case, by partnering with the City of Houston, the Flood Control District was able to use roughly 100 acres of Keith-Wiess Park for the detention basin, greatly reducing project costs. The $10 million basin allowed the City of Houston to qualify for $2 million in matching funds from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to build the recreational amenities in a park that has remained mostly wooded since it was acquired in 1979.

Houston Mayor Bill White and Houston Parks and Recreation Department Director Joe Turner also attended the event, which offered visitors golf cart tours of the site. Local children had an opportunity to fish in the freshly-stocked detention basin.

The basin contains approximately 68,000 wetlands plants specifically chosen to remove sediment, pollutants and bacteria from stormwater. Roughly 2,600 native trees are being planted as well as hundreds of pounds of grass and wildflower seeds.

Partners in the project include the Flood Control District, the City of Houston, Harris County precincts 1 and 2, Texas Parks and Wildlife and East Aldine Management District.

The Flood Control District also plans to excavate two additional detention basins farther downstream near U.S. 59 and Jensen Drive. Recreational amenities, including a pavilion and trails, were recently installed at a future basin site on the west side of U.S. 59.

Keith-Wiess Park is located at 12300 Aldine Westfield Road. It was acquired by the city through the benefaction of Mr. and Mrs. James Elkins. Its donation depended on the conservation of its natural features. As a result, a plan was developed with the cooperation of the Elkins family to build a detention basin that would reduce flooding risks and damages but maintain and enhance the natural integrity of the park.

Bailey hearing finds improvements in Labs

Representative Kevin Bailey, Chairman of the Texas House of Representatives Urban Affairs Committee, and committee members held a public hearing to take testimony on several interim issues including the current status of the HPD Crime Lab. The hearing took place in Houston.

“Houston had one of the worst crime labs in the country. It was one of the largest labs in the country that was not accredited. How would you rate it today?” Rep. Kevin Bailey asked witnesses appearing before the committee.

In response Irma Rios, crime lab director, testified that enormous strides have been made. She said they are making progress on implementing 90% of the 135 reforms recommended in the investigative report that was completed last year. Ms. Rios explained that the budget for the department has increased 25% and that 12 additional employees are in the process of being hired.

In response to another question from Rep. Kevin Bailey, it was learned that the case load at the lab has increased 30% the last few years and they are handling about two thousand narcotics cases per month. More than $2.3 million has been invested in new equipment and training for the staff.

Also, testifying before the committee were attorneys Bob Wycoth and Chris Downey. They are part of an independent panel that is in the process of reviewing the cases of 180 inmates whose prosecution included reliance on faulty lab work. They are trying to determine if the problems with the analysis by the crime lab lead to faulty convictions. About 40% of their work has been completed. In several cases, they found that the lab failed to report results that would have implicated the inmate. They will produce a report containing information on each cases when their work is completed. The first stage of the review will be complete by August 2009.

The last witness appearing before the committee was Patrick Johnson with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) crime lab. He testified that crime labs in all urban areas of the state are now accredited by DPS. They have accredited 42 labs in Texas and 30 in other states across the country.

Rep. Kevin Bailey authored legislation in 2003 that requires that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) establish an accreditation process for crime laboratories, including DNA laboratories, and other entities conducting forensic analyses of physical evidence for use in criminal proceedings. Physical evidence subjected to forensic analysis and testimony regarding evidence will not be admissible in a criminal court if, at the time of analysis, the crime laboratory is not accredited by DPS.

The House Committee on Law Enforcement joined the Urban Affairs Committee for the hearing.

HSPCA seizes 110 animals in Northeast Houston

Fighting cocks, horses, goats


HOUSTON — Late Friday evening the Houston SPCA Cruelty Investigation Team led by Chief Investigator, Charles Jantzen, rescued 103 game cocks and hens, 5 horses and 2 goats from a property in north Houston. A report of a loose horse led Harris County Constable Precinct 1 officers to the property where they discovered a multitude of game fowl caged in wire pens living alongside an old barn. The cages were placed closely together in an area enclosed by a makeshift wire fence and saturated in mud and weeds. The two goats were found in a small white trailer on the property and the horses were removed from disheveled stables.

The site of the HSPCA action was reportedly near the intersection of Hill and Hardy Streets.

Every single animal found on the property has some sort of injury or alteration to its body. The chickens seized are game fowl which are typically bred for aggression. They were found with their combs, which is the loose skin on the top of their heads, and waddles, which is the skin that hangs from their necks, cut off. Spurs are found on the inside of a chickens legs and are the equivalent of a thumb. Each rooster seized had their spurs cut down to a stump. This is common practice in cockfighting in order to attach artificial knives and gaffs to the stump for fighting purposes. Game roosters are extremely aggressive and will fight to the death. One of the rescued goats has an injured left front leg and along with injuries, two of the five horses are pregnant.

There appears to be several owners to the animals found on the property, however, their names are not being released at this time.

Criminal animal cruelty charges may be filed. The Houston SPCA will appear in court on Tuesday to request custody of all the animals seized. Currently, the animals are being housed at the Houston SPCA where they are being fed, treated for injuries and undergoing a series of medical and behavioral evaluations.

The Mission of the Houston SPCA is to promote commitment to and respect for all animals and to free them from suffering, abuse, and exploitation. For more than 84 years, the Houston SPCA has been an open door, a safe haven and defender for all animals. For more information call 713.869.SPCA or visit our web site at www.houstonspca.org.

Submitted By HSPCS

The Olympic Experience comes to a close

“Tonight, we come to the end of 16 glorious days which we will cherish forever.” With those words, International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge began the wind-up of the Olympics in China this past Sunday. According to the Associated Press 91,000 people attended the closing ceremonies.

By then, son David was safely nestled in his Newport home after 10 days in China. He called while I was submitting last week’s column to tell us he was home. He was tired but “glad he attended.” He and his varied Houston friends who traveled together to that far off land are now back at work. All good things must come to an end.

By his and others review they were “glorious day,” for them, for the athletes and for China. I do wonder how much change in China this glimpse by the outside world will make—probably very little. The Chinese Communist regime isn’t going to bend. Admittedly, I am a political conservative and have little regard for much of China’s lack of civil rights. But, I do not expect to see many changes during the rest of my lifetime.

Dave and at least one of his traveling companions are already talking of going back to China sometime soon. They are interested in seeing Beijing, and perhaps more of China, without all of the trappings that came with the Olympics. There have been many stories of the government closing factories, changing business hours, doing extra cleaning, etc. to get rid of some of the smog that normally covers the city. They want to go back and see how much change China made just for the Olympics.

Inasmuch as this is my second column on the Olympics I’m sure you can tell I am a fan and friend of the Olympics, summer and winter. While I didn’t watch all of the TV coverage I did watch a lot and managed a little each day. I’m a great fan of the athletes who have worked their hearts out to get to the Olympics. I find myself happy for the winners and sad for those who have great expectations and then lose, sometimes because of injury or some mishap. Mike and Mike on ESPN gave the Olympics an “A” for the events and Opening and Closing Ceremonies. I would agree.

These United States athletes did well this year with 110 medals, 36 of them gold. I got a good feeling for these athletes as they stood on the podium awaiting their awards. I felt good for all of them—American or not. This morning, Monday, I counted the number of countries represented by the winners. There were more than 90 and some from countries one seldom hears about or might have difficulty finding on a map. As I remember pre-Olympic hype indicated there would be 225 or so countries participating.

In this regard we say good work to the athletes, the IOC, China and others who participated in the 2008 Olympics. It was a great show. Now, for the Summer Olympics it is on to London in 2012.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!