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Posts published in “Day: April 21, 2009

Driving on

Dear Davy Baby,

For the first time since we parted ways earlier this year, I realized I’ve been doing pretty good without you. True, our years of history meaningful memories I will never replace. True, your sleek physique is still unmatchable. And true, I still haven’t quite figured out how to parallel park Diego, your replacement, as perfectly as I could with you. But you know what? That’s okay.

Do you remember when we officially got together? I drove you to my friend’s house after Dad handed you down to me, and my friend’s mom commented, “You must have done something good.” Yes, I didn’t deserve you, but you never complained—not even after in my first accident. (I’m still sorry about that, but it’s all ancient history now right?)

Actually you were around for a lot of firsts. You were my first car. You were there during my first kiss and my first love—and you stayed for my first heartbreak. You cheered me on at my first lacrosse game, even though I wasn’t very good. You were sitting quietly with me when I got my first ticket. You also were the one to take me to first experiences at many amazing restaurants, shops and scenic views.

When I had to give you up, I was devastated. Where would all my firsts go? Who would I depend on now to take me places? Would I ever feel as comfortable again? I’m sure you were worried about me too, since we knew each other for 12 years and were together for 8. So I want to assure you that Diego is great. It wasn’t love at first sight, but he’s patient and has many wonderful qualities. Plus he’s got ultra low emissions.

I actually took him Downtown for his first time this semester. Usually I’m too timid to show him around, but it was time. And after 30 minutes of navigating him around inebriated pedestrians, constantly braking at the world’s shortest light, and making who knows how many sharp turns, nothing happened. That’s right, nothing bad happened. In fact, I found a spot where I didn’t even have to parallel park him.

Even in leaving, you taught me something about life. It’s all about driving on and progressing. It’s not just firsts that matter, but also seconds, and thirds, and fourths, as long as you’re growing with every experience. Change is not only inevitable but also beneficial.

It’s also about never forgetting who helped get you where you are and gave you strength to keep going. Even if that “who” is just a car.

Davy Baby, we had an amazing relationship, but I think I’m ready to progress.

Love always from your ex-driver,

5 children die as Heavy Rains fall

Car skids into Bayou off Greens Road

North Houston was hit by heavy rains and thunderstorms on Saturday, canceling many events, flooding streets, and creating dangerous driving.

Authorities reported a family tragedy occurred on Greens Road near Aldine-Westfield as a combination of wet roads, possible driver intoxication, and a cell phone call that detracted him, combined to cause the car that Chanton Jenkins was driving to skid off the road and fall into a flooded drainage canal, which had as much as 9 feet of water depth.

Jenkins was said to be the father of four of the children. The accident happened about 5 p.m., and rescuers found the car in the water about 7:30 p.m., downstream about 100 feet. Two adults and a 10 year old child were able to escape the sinking car, but 5 other children, aged 1 to 7 years, did not get out safely, authorities said.

Houston police and fire departments initiated a search that included boats, infrared equipped helicopter, and divers, but as of Sunday one child was still missing, three were found dead inside the car, and one in the water. Texas Equusearch will help locate the missing child.

HPD spokesperson Dese Smith said Sunday that the driver would probably be charged with intoxication manslaughter.

A record 5 to 6 inches of rain fell in various parts of the county, according to the National Weather Bureau.

North Forest FFA holds 47th show

NORTH FOREST – The North Forest Agriculture department and the FFA held their 47th Annual Livestock Show and Sale last Thursday evening, April 16. Students in the program exhibited 34 lots of animals, a few more than last year.

In their welcoming remarks to the audience, students and bidders, North Forest Superintendent Adrain Johnson, and Board of Managers President George McShan, revealed their interest in Agricultural exhibits dated back to their days in high school, when each of them was involved in raising swine for their projects.

Johnson said that he raised a Grand Champion Swine when he was at Frost High School, and McShan said he grew up on a farm near Harlingen, had an Ag degree from Prairie View A & M, and showed a Grand Champion Swine in high school. He also recalled his experience of being at the “New Farmers of America” convention in 1965, when that historical event occurred and it was dissolved in favor of admitting minorities into the FFA organization.

Not to be outdone by his bosses, North Forest High School principal Charles Russell reminisced about his days in East Texas’ Big Thicket area around Sour Lake, when he worked on a farm and gained his appreciation of raising animals as the FFA students do.

During the bidding that followed, a total of $28,500 was bid for the exhibited animals, with “add-ons” after bidding bringing the total raised for the evening to $35,800. This money is used for scholarships and expenses for the students, according to AG advisor Bill Dodd. However, because of the economy and reduced enrollment numbers in the district, bidding and sale amounts were lower.

The Grand Champion Steer sold for $5000, which compared with $5500 last year. The total money bid, $28,500 compared with $39,800 in 2008. Considering that more animals were shown, this would mean that individual prices this year were lower.

It was the culmination of a year of learning and raising their animals for the students, under the direction of AG advisor Bill Dodd. The FFA Event was held at the AG barn, on the campus of the original Smiley High School on Mesa Drive.

Sales were brisk and spirited, as the auction proceeded under the direction of auctioneer Glenn Beckendorff. Exhibit Judges were Jeff McKnight, Steers and Swine; Shane Weldon, Poultry; and Suzanne Fulghum, Horticulture and Rabbits. This judging took place in the two days prior to the auction. Beckendorff, a personal friend and classmate of Dodd, mentioned that he had presided over the North Forest Auction for 25 out of the last 27 years, and always looked forward to it.

Add-ons, a monetary contribution in addition to the auction bids, were made by Capital Bank $150 to each exhibitor, and North Houston Bank, Beasley Tire and Jed’s Hardware.

Bidders this year included Northside Group (North Houston Bank, Jed’s Hardware, Beasley Tire, and Steve Mead/Component Sales & Service), Fred Guidry, Northeast Trailriders Association (Anthony Bruno), Melody Realty, Caldwell Companies, Zolman Construction, Bill & Margaret Ginder, Jed’s Hardware, Larry Prince, Constable Ken Jones, McCauley Lumber, North Houston Bank, Mrs. Hirncer in memory of Barbara Sack, AMS, A-1 Transmission (Kenneth Gibbs), Bill Dodd, Missi Joplin, John McNeil, Capital Bank, Elvin Franklin & Abner Brown, FFA Booster Club, and Allied-Kenco. Also on hand were former students, including John McNeil from the class of 1988, Fred Guidry, Anthony Bruno, Kenneth Gibbs, and Missi Joplin.

Senator Hutchison speaks on Tax Protest Day April 15

HOUSTON — On Wednesday, as Texans across the state are filing their taxes, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Texas’ senior Senator, joined young Texas families and Houston area business leaders to discuss the growing burden being placed on taxpayers by excessive government spending. At a press conference held at the new Gallery Furniture store on Post Oak in Houston, Sen. Hutchison detailed her efforts to extend the sales tax deduction and to eliminate the marriage tax penalty in future legislation.

“On Tax Day some in Congress may need a reminder of just who is underwriting the government’s spending spree: American taxpayers, like the Texans I met with today. They must not be burdened by a federal budget that borrows too much, spends too much, and taxes too much,” said Hutchison.

“While I’m proud that I was able to pass two important amendments in the Senate that will help lower the tax burden on Texas families, today, when millions of Texans are filing their taxes and thousands are participating in tea parties across the state, they remind us that we need to do more,” Hutchison said. “Let’s fight to make the marriage penalty relief permanent. And let’s fight to make our sales tax deductible so that these families here today, and across our state, can continue to pursue the American Dream.”

Also participating in the press conference, which took place at the Gallery Furniture Post Oak, were Texas families who will benefit from Hutchison’s tax amendments to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 budget that is now awaiting negotiations with the House.

During Senate debate on the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, Sen. Hutchison introduced two amendments to provide tax relief to millions of Texas families by permanently extending the sales tax deduction and eliminating the marriage penalty in future legislation.

Hutchison’s sales tax deduction amendment would prevent future tax increases on Texas families by allowing for the permanent deduction of state and local sales taxes. Texas is one of eight states that impose sales taxes in lieu of income taxes. Congress has extended the sales tax deduction every few years, but the provision will expire at the end of 2009. After a series of negotiations, the Senate accepted a modified version of Hutchison’s amendment.

Additionally, Hutchison has worked to eliminate the marriage tax penalty. On the first day of the 111th Congress, she introduced the Permanent Marriage Penalty Relief Act of 2009 to outlaw this tax policy, once and for all. She also introduced a budget amendment to establish a point of order against any legislation, which would impose or increase a marriage penalty. The marriage penalty pushes married couples into a higher tax bracket than two unmarried single wage earners living together and taking in the same combined income. After years of fighting this unfair tax policy, Congress has made important strides toward eliminating the marriage penalty by lowering tax rates, doubling the standard deduction, and simplifying other elements of the tax code. The amendment was passed unanimously in the Senate.

Hutchison and the families were joined by members of the Houston business community, including Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale; Don Paul Sweat, President of the Galleria Chamber of Commerce; Soofia Aleem, Executive Director of the South Asian Chamber of Commerce; Jeff Moseley, President & CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership; Jane Catherine Collins, Manager of Public Policy, Tax and Fiscal Issues, Greater Houston Partnership; Suzan Deison, Founder and President of the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber; Dana Kervin, Board Member of the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber; Elsie Huang, President of the Asian Chamber of Commerce; Danny Nguyen, President of the Vietnamese-American Chamber; and Laura Murillo, President of the Houston Hispanic Chamber.

Legislature: New speaker, and large learning curve

Just over six of the 20 weeks are left in the Texas Legislature’s 140-day regular legislative session, and the pace is picking up enormously.

Last week, in one 15-minute recess in the House, at least half a dozen hasty committee meetings were going on at members’ desks. That’s because until the last few weeks, it’s been rather slow in the House, where new Speaker Joe Straus and a considerable number of House members are learning the ropes.

That’s partly because almost exactly half the 150 House members are in a new ball game. The only speaker those members had served under during the last six years was the autocratic Republican, Tom Craddick, and the freshmen newcomers hadn’t even had that experience.

So for legislators who hadn’t served under Craddick’s predecessor, the much more member-oriented Democrat Pete Laney, they’re having to learn how the House and its committees operate when the speaker isn’t calling most of the shots.

Even for those who served under Laney, many had not been committee chairmen; Craddick took care of that when he engineered House redistricting by the Legislative Redistricting Board in 2001 which helped retire more than a dozen Democratic chairmen under Laney. And for those who did have some experience with autonomy in the House, that memory was at least six years ago.

The narrow 76-74 Republican advantage over the Democrats set the stage for Republican Straus and a handful of Republicans to partner with most of the Democrats to wrench the speakership from Craddick.

But even though the Democrats backed Straus – anything to get Craddick out of there – they’re going to be working hard over the next year and a half to net enough additional seats in 2010 to elect a speaker of their own.

Those efforts are soft pedaled for the time being, while the Legislature is meeting, said Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, chairman of the Texas Democratic House Campaign Committee.

“During session, we don’t focus on that,” Dunham said. “We try to do what our constituents want.”

That, Dunnam said, would include things like fully funding the state’s participation in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), to maximize the amount of federal money available to the state.

For that reason, Dunnam said, attention also has to be paid in 2010 to races bigger than just for the House.

“I think it’s really important that we begin to really start focusing on running statewide,” Dunnam said. “With (Republican Gov. Rick) Perry obstructing policy, we have to have a new governor.”

More Republican House incumbents are threatened in competitive districts than Democrats, Dunnam said.

“They (the Republicans) drew this redistricting map, and it’s coming back to haunt them,” Dunnam said. “I think they’ve cut the districts too close, assuming that the state would continue trending Republican. But it’s coming back (in a Democratic direction).”

Rep. Brian McCall, one of the 11 Republicans who met and chose Straus from among themselves as their consensus choice to contest Craddick for speaker, said “I would assume that if there’s a Democratic majority, there’ll be a Democratic speaker.”

However, if a Democratic majority is by only one or two votes, McCall said, “there are some Democrats, that have been treated fairly and have seen the way the House has operated, that would stick with the current speaker.”

# # #

Leave Texas Alone — Well, Sort Of. . . . One risks whiplash watching Gov. Perry rain on the federal government.

On April 7, Perry stood outside his capitol office flanked by 30 House members – all of them fellow Republicans except Democrat Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City – to call for re-emphasizing the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which calls for states’ rights.

“I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,” said Perry, who is expecting a re-election challenge from Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

That was on a Thursday. On Friday, Perry’s office put out a press release saying he was reiterating his request that the Federal Emergency Management Agency provide federal money and fire-fighting resources to help the state battle ongoing wildfires. Perry had requested such a declaration on Feb. 24, it was denied March 17, and appealed on March 20.

Looks like Texas needs some help from those oppressive old feds after all.

Slow down in Aldine

To the community,

My dad was in an automobile on Bentley and Bertrand April 4, having just returned from having a grand time at his granddaughter’s baby shower and coming back from Bingo at Dance Town USA where he works part time.

He was having problems with his car, when he crossed Bertrand a car not going the speed limit hit him knocking him in a ditch. Luckily finding his glasses the next instant was a sign he’s hopefully all right.

Please slow down in Aldine.

– The family of a loved one

Condolences for HFD fire fighters’ families, department

State Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston) released the following statement regarding the deaths of Houston firefighters Captain James Harlow and Mr. Damion Hobbs:

“I was greatly saddened to learn of the deaths of Captain James Harlow and Mr. Damion Hobbs of the Houston Fire Department. The City of Houston and the Houston Fire Department suffered a great loss, and I join them in mourning Captain Harlow and Mr. Hobbs. I am keeping the Hobbs family, the Harlow family and the Houston Fire Department in my prayers.”