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Posts published in “Day: February 24, 2009”

Halls Bayou Flooding draws crowds to hearings

NORTHEAST HOUSTON — The public was asked to participate last week in a series of three meetings hosted by the Harris County Flood Control District, to hear the status of the Halls Bayou Flood Control Study project, and to offer their comments and suggestions.

The meetings were held at MacArthur High School on Tuesday night and Saturday of last week. Anyone who missed the event, but wishes to participate, may access the information and suggestion forms at www.hcfcd.org/hallsbayoustudy. These are due by March 23.

As presented by HCFCD Study Manager Russ Poppe in a talk and slide show, the District is undertaking the Halls Bayou Federal Feasibility Study to identify a comprehensive plan designed to reduce damage due to flooding along Halls Bayou. The District began the study in 2006, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is anticipated that the study will take about 7 years to finish.

The study is meant to lead to large, long term solutions to the problems of flooding in the Halls Bayou Basin, and as it leads into Greens Bayou beyond. It is anticipated that if the criteria are met, the federal government through the Corps of Engineers may pay for as much as 75% of the remedial work. In the meantime, Harris County can pursue other more immediate remedial projects with its own funds, but currently these are limited.

In the Aldine area, flood control projects include Keith-Wiess Park on Aldine-Westfield, Hall Park on the East side of US59 near Langley, and Bretshire Basin on the West side of US59 near Jensen. Each of these is under construction and two will include recreation features. They have been built with funds from the County, the City, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.

In his remarks, Poppe pointed out that as a tributary of Greens Bayou, that Halls Bayou is located in north central Harris County, and include the City of Houston and central Harris County and unincorporated areas of the County, including those in the East Aldine and Airline Districts. There are approximately 200,000 people living in the area, which covers nearly 45 square miles and is about 20 miles long. There are more than 5,700 structures in the mapped 100 year floodplain area.

The purpose of the study, Poppe said, is to identify a plan that would address flooding problems and to qualify for federal funding to bring greater damage reduction benefits to the communities along Halls Bayou.

Techniques that might be considered as part of the study include Storm water detention basins, Purchase of homes and businesses that flood frequently, Bypass Channels, Bridge Improvements, and Channel Modifications. Public input is sought on these issues. You may call 713-684-4040 with additional information or suggestions for your neighborhood.

Judge Emmett gives State of the County address for 2009

County leader cites successes, stresses vigilance ahead

Harris County is home to the fourth largest city in the nation, and part of a larger whole that means we must plan for a future that is “inextricably tied to others,” according to Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, speaking to the Greater Houston Partnership and delivering his State of the County address last Thursday.

But the good news is that we are financially sound, due to conservative financial planning.

The County is due to adopt a 2009-2010 budget at their next session, of about $1.7 billion dollars, which is 7 percent larger than the previous year. However, due to increased property appraisals averaging 10 percent, no tax increase will be required.

Challenges in the future will include dealing with unprecedented growth and its related issues, he said. Population is expected to double by the year 2030, and will bring problems to solve in transportation, health care, education, job creation, and quality of life issues.

Emmett stressed that the key to solving all of these problems will be cooperation between government entities on a regional basis, and public/private participation in the process. He cited a number of examples of success in this regard, including how the region dealt with the Hurricane Ike strike, and subsequent damage and relief.

Emmett pointed out that Harris County is becoming the “Gateway to North America” and that international commerce will be the key to our greater prosperity. “It is our future” he said.

The Port of Houston and its infrastructure will be key to the success of international commerce. Transportation will be important in this regard, including commuter rail, METRO light rail lines, and extension of transit to areas not now served.

Health Care must be improved, with the need for more than two Level One trauma centers, the separation of mental health from the criminal justice system, and other governments sharing in the cost of indigent care for patients living outside Harris County.

Education is a key component in the future, and Emmett would like to see the University of Houston developed into a “Top Tier” status institution.

Finally, preparation by both governments, businesses, and the public must continue to deal with more natural disasters such as Hurricane Ike brought to the Gulf Coast, he said.

Opinion: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act needed

Rep. Gene Green last week voted in support of H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This legislation will help Americans become more globally competitive and energy independent, modernize our infrastructure and healthcare systems, invest in the future of education, while providing unprecedented accountability and transparency. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was approved by a vote of 246-183, and will be sent to President Obama this week for his signature.

“Today, Congress took action and passed a responsible solution that will put America on the road to recovery,” said Rep. Green. “We are not looking simply to provide a crutch for Americans who have lost their jobs. Our investment in the workforce is designed to not only rebuild America, but to transform our economy for long-term growth and make Americans globally competitive in growing industries like green collar jobs, new energy markets, and health care information and technologies.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will create and save 3 to 4 million jobs and prepare our economy for long-term growth. This legislation focuses on the struggling economy today and on creating a sustained workforce for tomorrow. ARRA includes strong oversight and public transparency. More than three quarters of all Americans favor this legislation.

“Right now Texas has an unemployment rate of 6 percent, and it is estimated that the Recovery package will create or save over 269,000 jobs in Texas alone,” said Green.

A staggering 3.6 million American jobs have been lost since this recession began in December 2007. High unemployment and rising costs have outpaced Americans’ paychecks. The Recovery Act will help workers train and find jobs, and help struggling families make ends meet. Every dollar in unemployment or food stamp creates at least $1.63 in economic activity, as these funds are spent quickly. 95 percent of Americans will receive an immediate tax cut.

This jobs and economic recovery act contains plans to create or save 269,000 jobs in Texas over the next two years, provide a “Making Work Pay” tax cut of up to $800 for over 8 million workers and their families immediately, and modernize the state’s infrastructure and create jobs with an extra $2.8 billion dollars in funding.

“We cannot afford to wait. Our economy is crumbling, workers are being laid off, people are losing their health insurance, and families are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet,” said Rep. Green. “This legislation will start us back on the right track by looking out for those who have been most affected, and by broadly investing in multiple sectors of our economy. It will take time to turn this economy around, but I am confident that this package will make our economy stronger.”

Gene Green is the Democratic Congressman for East Harris County.

Opinion: Just say no to largest spending bill in U.S. history

Dear Neighbors,

Today, Congress passed the largest spending bill in our nation’s history – I voted NO.

This morning, before the vote, I was talking to my friend Sammy Mahan from Baytown, Texas, and I shared our conversation on the House floor today. Like most Americans, he was concerned about his business and what this is going to cost.

Sammy owns a wrecker business and has five wreckers under his service. He asked me, “How are we going to pay for it?” And I said, “Well, we don’t have the money so we are probably going to have to borrow it, maybe from the Chinese. Eventually there is going to be a tax increase.”

And he asked, “How much is it going to cost?” I said, “$790 billion.” Then he said, “No. How much is it going to cost me?” I replied, “It is about $10,000 per family, is what they say.”

Then he said, “Well, I don’t have $10,000; and unlike you government boys, I can’t spend money I don’t have. So I want you to opt me out of this deal.” And I asked, “What do you mean, opt you out?” He replied, “Give me a form. I want to sign it. You take $10,000 off that $790 billion. I don’t want to pay it because I don’t have the money.”

I suspect that if most Americans read this bill and they realized how much it was going to cost them personally they would agree with Sammy. And since people I represent can’t opt out, I am going to opt out for them.

Congress needs to come up with a plan that actually stimulates our economy by addressing the problems that got us here, not creating more. But in another failed attempt to save the day, Congress continued down the same path of careless and wasteful spending and voted 246 – 183 to pass this misguided spending bill loaded with pork. Congress needs to act to revive our economy, but a bill loaded with pet projects and more government programs is not the way to financial salvation. Government is not the answer – it is the problem.

Allowing Americans to keep more of their own money by providing tax cuts for everyone who pays federal income tax is the only proven method of giving the economy the shot in the arm it needs to recover. We do not need more government jobs, we need to allow our small businesses to increase their productivity and create jobs that will last. I believe that Americans know how to best spend their money, not the Washington elites.

Ted Poe is the Republican congressman for East Harris and West Liberty County.