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Posts published in “Day: February 10, 2009”

How’d you get that name?

This writer, and family, has been doing a lot of running around the past month or so. Have traveled many miles by car and sometimes believe I have put on almost as many miles by foot as I wander around Crosby, Dayton, Baytown and environs since January 1.

Over the past three weeks we have spent a few hours each day working on son David’s lawn and extra lot. We now have it in pretty good shape. This yard worker has been filling those large black contractor’s bags with leaves and twigs. Forty-seven have been hauled away by the trash man since I started. Have a little hedge trimming, weed-eater work and spreading some mulch before I will call his lawn ready for spring.

That kind of work, occasionally doing some housework and writing columns, keeps me out of trouble. Wendell Berry once said, “The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all.” Right on!

##M:Continue Reading…Names

Driving the three hundred miles through Mississippi (northern border at Memphis to the southern border at Louisiana) I came across a couple of people with what I believe to be unique names. One waitress had a nametag that read, “Myedestiny.” That was a new name to me. I asked her how her parents came up with it but didn’t get much of an answer.

On a later stop in that same state I saw a nametag on a waiter that read, “I. B. Free.” His explanation was that the Free’s chose Ivan, plus a middle name starting with a B that I have forgotten, because they liked what it meant. I don’t think I could hang names like that on a kid. Those names brought smiles to my face.

Was reading the “Greater Houston Weekly” recently and found an article that also intrigued me. It was penned by one Ron Saikowski and concerned the “Purple Possum Winery” out Navasota way. You might be familiar with that winery but the name brought another smile to my face. Where did it originate?

Ron explained the owners told him “One evening a possum got into a pail of purple grape juice and changed the color of his coat. It was months before the possum was no longer purple.” This event named the winery. Makes sense but I am still smiling.

Goldfish training

Every now and then I find myself with time on my hands and look for something to do. However, I have never gotten so desperate that I would follow the suggestion in a recent advertisement of a Houston business. It encourages readers to buy a “Training kit to train goldfish to play basketball.” I have no idea how or why anyone would want to train a goldfish to play basketball. Let me know if you bought the kit and have said trained goldfish. I’m still smiling on that one too.

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

Aldine FFA celebrates ‘golden anniversary’ with record sales

The Aldine ISD 50th Annual FFA Livestock Show & Country Fair concluded on Friday night of last week, and exhibitors and participants were pleased with record high sales figures. The proceeds are used for student expenses and scholarships, and this will be the best year ever held, according to Fair Director Franklin Higgins.

The Aldine ISD FFA Livestock Show and Country Fair had quite a 50th anniversary celebration! For the fourth consecutive year, a new sales record was established at the 50th annual Livestock Show, held Jan. 30 at the M.O. Campbell Educational Center, as members of the Aldine community pledged $216,000 for various projects, eclipsing the 2008 amount by $41,520.50.

The Sale of Champions was the culmination to two weeks of activities to celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary. A street festival, sponsored by the Greenspoint Chamber of Commerce, was held on Jan. 24. Also during the month of January, a gala was held to honor former students and on the morning of Jan. 30, a breakfast and art auction was held the morning of the Sale of Champions.

“This was such a wonderful way to celebrate 50 years of this show,” said Franklin Higgins, Aldine ISD’s director of career and technical education. “We worked on this event for two years and we want to thank the many volunteers and staff members who went above and beyond the call of duty to make this a special two weeks. We also want to thank the community for once again stepping forward to support our students and their projects. Every year our community and staff members step up to the plate and exceed what they contributed the year before. We had another successful show because so many people and groups made a special effort to support our students as buyers.”

In addition to the various vertical buyers’ groups that purchased student projects, the district operations department purchased all of the student projects that did not place, thus ensuring that those students would have some sort of monetary award for their hard work. Once those projects are processed, they will be donated to Aldine Y.O.U.T.H. and St. Monica’s Catholic Church.

The money raised by Aldine ISD Ag students is theirs to use for college scholarships or to fund future FFA projects during the 2009-2010 school year. Nimitz Senior High sophomore Meagan Pasket raised the grand champion steer, which was purchased by First Construction Group for a record-setting $20,0000 (last year’s grand champion steer sold for $19,000). The reserve grand champion steer was raised by Tanya Ryan of MacArthur Senior High. It was purchased by First Construction Group for $7,000.

The grand champion pig was raised by Tyler Kelch of Nimitz Senior High. It was purchased by Special “T” Trucking for $9,000. The reserve grand champion pig was raised by Ashura Bayyan of Aldine Senior High. It was purchased by the Aldine Vertical Group for $7,000.

The grand champion goat was raised by Hanna Eiland of Nimitz Senior High. It was purchased by the Nimitz Vertical Group for $9,000. The reserve grand champion goat was raised by Tyler Kelch of Nimitz Senior High and was purchased by the Eisenhower Vertical Group for $5,000.

The grand champion lamb was raised by Brandon Alcala of Nimitz Senior High. It was purchased by the Superintendent’s Group for $9,000. The reserve grand lamb was raised by Yessenia Nieto of MacArthur Senior High and was purchased by Beasley Tire Service, Inc., for $4,250.

The grand champion turkey Tom was raised by Cody Cloninger of MacArthur Senior High. It was purchased by the Finance Group for $6,000. The reserve grand champion turkey Tom was raised by Melanie Rivera of MacArthur Senior High. It was purchased by the MacArthurVertical Group for $2,750.

The grand champion turkey hen was raised by Andre Houston of Aldine Senior High. It was purchased by the Aldine Vertical Group for $6,500. The reserve grand champion turkey hen was raised by Amanda Ruscher of Nimitz Senior High. It was purchased by the Aldine’s Buyer Group for $2,250.

The grand champion broilers were raised by Hanna Eiland of Nimitz Senior High. They were purchased by the Aldine’s Buyers Group for $4,500. The reserve grand champion broilers were also raised by Ruscher and were purchased by AXA Equitable for $1,750.

The grand champion fryer rabbits were raised by Adrianne Alewine of Nimitz Senior High. They were purchased by AXA Equitable for $3,750. The reserve grand champion fryer rabbits were raised by Jared Fellers of Nimitz Senior High and were purchased by Z and V Cleaning for $2,500.

The grand champion horticulture project was produced by Tyler Kelch of Nimitz Senior High. It was purchased by the Nimitz Vertical Group for $2,000. The reserve grand champion horticulture project was produced by Meagan Pasket of Nimitz Senior High. It was purchased by the Nimitz Vertical Group for $1,000.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary
of the FFA Livestock Show and Country Fair, a 50th Anniversary Belt Buckle was produced by the Scholarship Fund. It was purchased by the Nimitz Vertical Group for $2,500. Additionally, the first-place scholarship cake was produced by Aldine Senior High and was purchased by the Aldine Vertical Group for $900, while MacArthur Senior High’s second-place scholarship cake was purchased by North Houston Bank for $700.

Click here to see the Grand Champions in each category of the Aldine ISD 50th Annual FFA Livestock Show & FCCLA Country Fair photo gallery!

NOT PICTURED:

7th PIG – Tamika Jackson, $3300
Buyer: Eisenhower Vertical Group

4th BROILERS – Tyler Kelch, $500
Buyer: Aldine Buyers Group

5th STEER – Taylor Palermo, $4030
Buyer: Nimitz Vertical Group

8th PIG – Johnice Jackson, $2100
Buyer: Aldine Buyers Group

5th GOAT – Amanda Johnson, $500
Buyer: MacArthur Vertical

5th LAMB – Steve Galarza, $1050
Buyer: MacArthur Vertical

5th BROILERS – Karla Velazquez, $550
Buyer: Superintendents Group

9th PIG – Leo Martinez, $1900
Buyer: McCauley Lumber

6th BROILERS -Christian Pinales, $850
Buyer: Michael Smith

10th PIG – Evelyn Manning, $1400
Buyer: Nimitz Vertical Group

6th GOAT – Jared Fellers, $600
Buyer: Mark Jaeger

11th PIG – Denzell Owens, $1400
Buyer: JSD Auto

6th LAMB – Karla Velazquez, $1350
Buyer: Superintendents Group

12th PIG – Devin Miller, $1000
Buyer: Operations Group

7th LAMB – Terence Parker, $3000
Buyer: Eisenhower Vertical Group

13th PIG – Jasmine Kosse, $1800
Buyer: MacArthur Vertical Group

7th GOAT – Samantha Casares, $1250
Buyer: First Construction Group

14th PIG – Benjamina Covarribus, $2000
Buyer: Aldine Vertical Group

State of the Precinct Address: Garcia hears residents’ concerns at town hall

HARRIS COUNTY – Pct. 2 County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia held her version of a Town Hall Meeting last Thursday night at Jeff Davis High School, and it was extremely well attended, with about 300 persons from all the four districts that she represents in Harris County.

This was actually a combination of a citizen’s Town Hall Meeting, with questions and comments, which followed what might be described as the Commissioner’s “State of the Precinct” presentation.

Garcia explained that her Precinct is a large undertaking, with many people helping her to govern. In fact, she spoke beside a table with 5 deputy commissioners, and about 1/4th of the audience were actually her department heads, staff, and representatives from other non-county government agencies such as METRO and Tx-DOT. Garcia pointed out that her yearly budget is about $60,000,000 and she has 500 employees to deliver the District’s services.

The Commissioner’s opening comments were a list of accomplishments, and services that her administration delivers to constituents. She spoke at length about the damages that Hurricane Ike had brought to the Precinct, and how they had responded to immediate emergencies and longer term rebuilding. Important transportation elements such as the Washburn Tunnel, and the Lynchburg Ferries, were temporarily out of service, but were restored as soon as possible.

Infrastructure plans

Her review of projects focused on Infrastructure such as new water and sewer service for 100 homes in her precinct, but noted that the actuality was that 50,000 homes have been cited in the Precinct as not having adequate safe water and sewers. She said this demonstrated the depth of the problems facing us.

In the Northeast area of her Precinct, she said she is working with agencies such as the East Aldine Management District to bring these infrastructure improvements. Other partnerships, with NFL and the Texans, for instance, have resulted in a Super Bowl Center and YET Center, athletic facilities for neighborhoods, now run by the Boys and Girls Club. She said the County has contributed $310,000 to this effort. Another partnership, with the federal NIH and YMCA national organization, has resulted in a program to improve the environment for everyday life in the area, and this study/action program is entitled ACHIEVE.

Senior Citizen programs

She said that there are over 100,000 Senior Citizens enrolled in her seniors programs and Senior Olympics, and they partake of many programs in all her Community Centers. At the other end of the age spectrum, Pct. 2 has a number of programs for Youth, with 1100 kids signed up from 14 different schools. Programs include a bike give-away event, and Summer Camp for as many as 1400.

Another interesting partnership is with San Jacinto Community College, where together they have set up a program for community citizens to learn how to use a computer, and in a Bi-Lingual environment.

Helping our veterans

Other programs include recognition of support for Veterans. Over 3400 have signed up for special Veterans programs, and the Precinct runs a fleet of buses for Seniors and Veterans that include daily runs to the Veterans Hospital. Another recognition for Veterans is an Annual picnic, now in its third year, for all Veterans in the County in one location for the year.

The Commissioner took time to introduce the “New Sheriff in Town”, Adrian Garcia, who spoke briefly about his department and introduced some of his staff that was present. His message to the crowd was to get involved in volunteering, and that this will help reduce crime. “Law Enforcement is not the only answer to reducing crime”, he extolled.

PUBLIC COMMENT SECTION:

From the East Aldine area, comments were on Traffic Jams East and West on thoroughfares such as Aldine Mail and Little York, as they pass over the Hardy Toll Road. Sound Buffers and more Landscaping was also requested.

Extreme Flooding from inadequate drainage, even from normal rainfall, was noted along Little York. HC Toll Road representatives, Peter Key and Mike Perez, said that solutions to these problems was under study. Flo Rios and several other East Aldine residents asked for help in cleaning up their neighborhoods of trash, sewage, rats, and stray animals. Commissioner Garcia promised she would organize a CLEAN-UP DAY for the Precinct to help.

METRO questions raised Other public comment included support for light rail, several requests for an underpass at Harrisburg for METRO, instead of an overpass, support for a new soccer stadium downtown, and complaints about the current Home Repair program. Complaints were lodged against so-called mobile restaurants, or Taco Trucks.

Garcia discussed the new Community Center, to be named Leo Castillo CC, with potential for Health Care, and Educational facilities, as well as traditional community functions.

Flooding concerns

A number of citizens complained about flooding that seems to be getting worse over the years, making driving impossible during heavy rains along I-45 frontage roads, and areas along the Hardy Toll Road.

The large crowd, and limited time, meant that many issues of interest to the audience did not get discussed, and many department heads that were present did not get to talk about their areas of responsibility. However, many people stayed after the 8 pm closing, and continued the discussions or set up appointments for later follow through action.

Community ‘shocked’ over decision to close local Catholic school

NORTHEAST HARRIS COUNTY — Six months ago Hurricane Ike slammed in to the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School, doing devastating damage.

Last week the school took another big hit from Galveston, this time from the archdiocese.

On Feb. 5 Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, of the Houston-Galveston Archdiocese said that four Houston-area schools “be vacated as of August 2009.” Holy Name, St. Charles Borromeo, Our Mother of Mercy and St. Philip Neri were put on the chopping block.

The decision has not set well with area parents and church members.

“It’s shocking,” said State Rep. Armando Walle, who is a member of the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.

The closure hits particularly close to home for Walle. His wife Debbie attended the school, which serves grades Pre-K through fifth grade. His niece also attends the school. “We were talking about it when we drove back from Austin yesterday (Feb. 5). My wife was really devastated. It holds a special place in our hearts.”

“I know there is difficult times ahead, but I didn’t think the Diocese would do it,” Walle said. He said that a couple of years there was discussion about closing the school but that it was allowed to stay open.

The decision, Walle, said, will come especially hard for parents in the are who want their children to attend a Catholic school, but that there are none close. “They could have gone to Holy Name,” he said. “But they’re on the list too.”

After the storm, students were sent to Seton Catholic Junior High on Rose Lane. Walle said he was not sure if they would continue to attend that campus.

“The students currently enrolled in those schools will be consolidated into, or given priority status at, other Catholic schools readily accessible to them,” DiNardo said.

The archdiocese’s announcement is the first in a series of announcements concerning its plans to open new schools in fast-growing areas, refurbish existing schools and consolidate some school campuses.

Cardinal DiNardo said, “After 18 months of dialogue with key leaders in our Catholic Schools and in the Archdiocese, we believe we have the best plan – not the easiest plan – but the best plan to help position our Catholic schools for excellence for the next 20 years, while serving the greatest number of students in our diverse and dynamic community.”

The comprehensive study, which was announced in 2007 and concluded in December, was conducted by Meitler Consultants of Hales Corners, Wisconsin – and included numerous opportunities for input by representatives of Catholic schools and the wider Archdiocese. It was designed to create a strategic plan that ensures educational excellence in local Catholic schools for the future.

Eleven Catholic schools located in the inner city continue to provide faith-based, values-infused education to the more than 2000 mostly minority students enrolled in these Archdiocesan schools.

Sister Kevina Keating, Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools, said, “The plan is a strategic working document for our schools and our archdiocese, it will be gradually implemented and continually monitored for effectiveness over the coming years, with future adjustments possible.”

Bank CEO gives Chamber ‘inside story’ on federal bail-out

Chamber members heard an inside story about the Federal Bail-Out program, at their monthly luncheon last Thursday, from Amegy Bank CEO Paul Murphy.

Murphy’s bank was one of 400 that have received so-called TARP money from the federal government, in the first phase of their “Bail-Out” program to save an economy that is on the midst of Recession and the verge of Depression. Murphy was speaking to the North Houston Greenspoint Chamber of Commerce, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Greenspoint.

Murphy was discussing the federal TARP program, or Troubled Asset Repurchase Program, which the federal government has now allocated $250 million to, with another $350 million suppose to follow. Murphy said that in looking at last year 2008, it was clear that banks made too much credit available, and it was too easy to get. In addition, financial markets had little or no regulation in important transaction activity, leading to the collapse of confidence in the markets and the current crisis.

Murphy’s bank, Amegy, which is a part of the Utah Zion Bankshares, received $300 million at 25 basis points. Zion received a total of $1.4 billion of Bail-Out money for all their banks. This lending to banks has allowed the industry to stabilize, and have adequate capital to continue normal lending, he said. However, when the banks are receiving money at 5% interest, they must charge 7% or more to remain profitable. In addition, loans are now available, but at higher rates than last year. His own bank increased commercial loan activity by 16% over last year. The national average is also up, at 5.6%. Amegy actually had a profitable year in 2008, making $104 million.

Murphy said that banking is actually very difficult now, with the federal government controlling bank activity with three different agencies, that don’t always agree on rules. These are the Federal Reserve, the U.S.Treasury, and the federal Bank Examiners.

He cites examples where his bank wanted to loan money, or continue a non-peforming loan, but were told by banking authorities that they could not. However, Amegy is in a stronger position than some banks by not engaging in the SubPrime Lending market of other lenders. Murphy felt that many banks were now operating on rules of the past, and this was a good return to stability and common sense. These tightened regulations mean that a company might in the past get a $100,000 line of credit without substantial paperwork or collateral, based only on years in business and the creditworthiness of the principals. However, today, more documentation is required and that line of credit might only be $50,000 or less.

He cautioned that in a time of adverse financial situations, many companies found themselves victims of fraud, or theft. He said that much of this fraud was from internal sources, and that 92% was committed by first time thieves. He noted that Texas law protects the consumer and the bank, by giving only 60 days for a customer to report an error in a transaction.

Murphy noted that other regulations that accompany TARP funds make a bank sign an agreement to follow future rules that are not even defined today. He pointed out that President Obama has called for a cap on executive compensation of $500,000 to TARP banks with excessive needs, defined as asking for money more than once. He said that about 12 banks out of the 400 meet this criteria.

In the mortgage crisis area, many banks including Amegy are willing to refinance a loan and offer more favorable terms to help property owners. It is in the best interests of most banks to do this. He said that borrowers must be careful which bank they pick to do business with, however, because not all will be around in the future, and they may not honor contracts of defunct institutions.

Murphy’s summation was that in spite of today’s gloomy activity, we are going to be okay in the long term. “The U.S. is the Best Place to Live and Do Business in the World,” he said.

Green wants to delay Digital Television Transition until June

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Gene Green, last week, voted in favor of S. 352, the DTV Delay Act which will implement a one-time delay of the scheduled February 17 transition until June 12, 2009. The DTV Delay Act passed the House of Representatives 264-158 and will be sent to President Obama for his signature.

“There are over 2 million households still on the coupon waiting list, not to mention those that have expired coupons and will be unable to redeem them,” said Green. “In our district alone there are over 6,200 households still waiting to receive their coupons. Without this delay, millions of Americans will lose their service, and unfortunately most of these households are disproportionately low income, rural, and elderly Americans.”

Additionally, this bill will permit a consumer who never redeemed coupons or whose coupons expired to reapply for replacement coupons, and continues to make sure that households receive no more than two.

“It is clear that this legislation is needed. Since Monday, February 2, the size of the national waitlist grew by over 200,000 households,” said Green. “There were over 500 additional households in our district alone.”