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Posts published in July 2009

Two original directors retire from EAD board


After about 10 years of service to the Aldine community, as members of the Board of Directors of the District, Maria Espinoza and Ray Shotwell have announced their intentions to retire this year, when their terms expire.

Maria has served as the secretary of the board, and originally was picked to run for the board after serving for 40 years as secretary of the High Meadows North Civic Club. The district was originally known as the Aldine Community Improvement District, a result of an initiative in the Texas Legislature by Kevin Bailey, who helped found the District, getting the original bill to create the sales tax supported district through the legislature in 2001. In addition to retiring from the board, Maria intends to move to the country with her husband. In her parting remarks to the board and guests that had assembled in her honor at a retirement party last Tuesday night at the District’s offices, she said “It has been an honor” to serve the district on the board. Her friends shared her feelings and thanked her deeply for her service and devotion.

Ray Shotwell was also honored for the years he had spent on the board, most recently as Vice-Chairman. Ray told the story of originally being asked to join the board and the district by Clyde Bailey and Leland Jauer in the parking lot of Jed’s Hardware store, talking about the prospects of the new district. At the time, Ray was a manager at Brookside Funeral Home, one of the well established businesses in the district and a leader in community affairs. Ray took that leadership role, and his interest in bettering the community, into his role as board member. He presided over the District at a time when its income went from almost nothing, to an average of $3.5 million per year. This money has allowed the district to achieve many of its original goals of providing water and sewer lines, increased police security, street lighting and sidewalks, and other amenities. He saw the district change names from ACID to East Aldine Management District, and now known as East Aldine District.

Ray is now retired from the funeral business, although he occasionally helps his wife in some similar business ventures. Ray said that his ten years on the board have been quite an adventure, one that was good for the community and that he was glad to be part of.

Executive Director David Hawes and Chairman Clyde Bailey led the remarks of congratulations to the two retirees, joined by others including State Rep. Armando Walle, who recalled and thanked Rep. Kevin Bailey for his work in founding the district and helping it progress over the years. Hawes told the board at its business meeting later, that four positions were open on the board, but that directors Bob Beasley and Gerald Overturff had indicated a willingness to continue another 4 year term. Anyone wanting to serve on the board for the other two terms, was encouraged to contact Director of Services Richard Cantu at 713-595-1220.

Aldine District plans $8.5 million in Mobility, other Improvements


The East Aldine District heard a report last Tuesday night at their board meeting from their mobility and urban design consultants, regarding plans for improvements. Consultants making presentations included Thad Kudela of the landscape firm Kudela and Weinheimer, and David Millikan of the planning firm Wilbur Smith Associates.

The improvements come as a result of the recent bond sales. Proceeds from this sale have been set aside for the construction of the following: Trails and sidewalks, $784,000; Signage and monumentation, $1,666,000; Landscaping $2,200,000; and Mobility improvements, $3,837,000. In addition, other monies from the bond sale were set aside for sewer and water improvements in several project neighborhoods.

Kudela showed exhibits of improved safety around the schools, with new sidewalks and trails. Next, he showed examples of signage, some directional or informational, and some used for “branding” of the district. New landscaping will be added too, he said, showing examples of trees in medians, starting with JFK.

Millikan talked about mobility improvements, including increased turning radii at some intersections that now have large trucks turning, widening of Lauder Road at the intersections, and improved conditions for pedestrians with better crosswalks Many of these improvements are illustrated in the accompanying map.

Other Business

Clyde Bailey thanked David Hawes of HHCLLP, for his work in negotiating a favorable rate for the bond sale that was just completed. Bailey said that the lower rate that was achieved will eventually save the District about $12 million in interest payments over the life of the bonds.

During the review of the financial report, it was noted that for the first time since sales tax was collected for the district, there was a slight decline of 1.6% in the total monthly receipts.

Crimestoppers’ Kiosk at Greenspoint Mall gives public views of Most Wanted


Greenspoint Mall can now boast a new service that no other mall in Texas can claim: a public safety kiosk in partnership with local Crime Stoppers.

The new public safety kiosk was unveiled last week at a joint Greenspoint Mall-Crime Stopper press conference. Greenspoint Mall General Manager Ray Bejarano said that the kiosk is one of only two in the nation. The other is in Atlanta. The kiosk is located in the center court area; the part of the mall Bejarano said has the heaviest traffic.

The kiosk utilizes touch-screen technology. Bejarano said that with the kiosk, mall visitors can access safety tips as well get a listing and pictures of Crime Stopper’s Top 10 Most Wanted Felons in the Houston area. The site will be updated approximately every two weeks.

The kiosk comes from a chance meeting at a North Houston Greenspoint Chamber of Commerce event between Bejarano and Crime Stoppers Executive Director Katherine Cabaniss.

“Our president (Chamber President Reggie Gray) introduced me to Katherine.” Bejarano said. “They (Crime Stoppers) like to take on new initiatives and they knew that we have a high traffic area. She showed me the prototype and it went from there.”

Bejarano said that they will be able to monitor how many people use the kiosk during a given time period. If it is well received, he said, he would like to see more installed throughout the mall.

Those Summer Daze…


Finished reading an eBook this weekend, a first for me and enjoyed it so much, I ordered another eBook to download. An eBook is read over the computer once downloaded for a nominal fee.

The program to read the eBook was free so I am good to go. The particular book just finished was LONG HORN II by Dusty Rhodes. AMAZON.COM has the book for $35.95 + S & H and it is a paperback edition, used at that.

The eBook was purchased for $5.50 with the only drawback being it must be read over this computer and one cannot go lie down to read and catch a snooze. It cannot be copied, printed, transferred or forwarded. Like the Vegas theme, “What you read here, stays here”.

Our oldest boy by 9 minutes and his clan are down from Pennsylvania. They head back up and across the Mason Dixon Line tomorrow, none too soon for the cats. Must admit the boy has become a good cook over the years and gladly turned the cooking over to him while he was home. Reckon we’ll be eating leftovers for a week after they leave.

Grandkids sure are nice and fun loving to have. Some good, some bad and folks say you reap what you sow. The reason kids today are such picky eater is because the parents ask them if they want some of this, that and the other to eat. Prepare the kids a plate and expect them to eat. If they do not, do not reward them with cookies and ice cream. GOOD GRIEF!!!

That is old school maybe but I am sure there are some of you who will agree with me. Took the granddaughters (7 & 12) to Wal-Mart the other morning @ 0600; advised them to stick close to me because somebody might get them and they be making tamales for the rest of their lives. Do not have to worry about the girls running around whooping and hollering like some you see in the stores. Reckon you could say that is why little brother got left behind because I too would whoop and holler too if I had to tag along with two girls in the girl’s britches department.

These kids do not know how good they have it. All they did while in Texas sure beats sitting outside in a swing shelling beans and peas, shucking corn and putting stuff up, canning and all. That may be productive and it sure beats watching SQUARE BOB WET PANTS or the Nick channel. Guess that is why they are at their great aunt’s house swimming in the concrete pond and not in the creek outback.

Cupid Boutique robbers sought


Crime Stoppers and Investigators with the Harris County Sheriff ’s Office are seeking information on an Aggravated Robbery at Cupid’s Boutique and Smoke Shop located at 5303 Easthampton near Hwy 59 North.

On July 12, around 1:30 in the morning two black males entered Cupid’s Boutique while a third male stood outside of the front door. The two suspects produced pistols and demanded cash from the two clerks who were working. One of the suspects climbed over the counter and took money from the cash register. All three suspects then fled the scene in an unknown direction.

The first suspect is a 19 to 23 year old black male. He is about 5’5” to 5’7” tall and weighs between 120 to 140 pounds. He was wearing a black shirt with black and gray shorts. The second suspect is a 15 to 16 year old black male. He is about 5’0 to 5’3” tall and weighs between 100 to 120 pounds. He was wearing a black shirt with black and red shorts. The look out was a 12 to 15 year old black male around 5’ tall and between 100 to 120 pounds.

The robbery was captured on a surveillance camera.

Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for any information called in to the 713-222-8477 tips hotline or submitted online at www.crime-stoppers.org that leads to the identification, arrest and/or charging of any of the suspects in this case.

North Forest ISD hires new financial chief: Wilson brings 20 years experience to post


HOUSTON – Ronald M. Wilson joins NFISD as its new chief financial officer. The North Forest ISD Board of Managers approved Wilson’s appointment at a called meeting Thursday, July 1.

Wilson comes to North Forest ISD from Fort Worth ISD, having served as that district’s chief financial officer for nearly three years, where he oversaw a budget of more than $680 million. Board President George McShan said he is impressed by Williams’ experience and background in school finance and is certain he will be an asset to NFISD.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Adrain Johnson agreed, saying “It’s no secret that North Forest ISD has, in the past, faced challenges in the area of financial management. The appointment of Ronald Wilson is evidence of the District’s solemn commitment to continuing to turn things around in the area of fiscal responsibility.”

In all, Wilson has nearly 20 years of experience in school finance, having worked in accounting and business management for several Texas school districts, including Stafford MSD, Crosby ISD and Galena Park ISD. He also served as the chief financial officer for DeSoto ISD. And before joining Fort Worth ISD, he was, for nearly eight years, the assistant superintendent of budgeting and financial planning for Houston ISD, where he oversaw a budget of more than $2.8 billion. Wilson serves as a member of the Texas Association of School Business Officials Government Relations committee and has served a member of the TASBO Board of Directors and as a member and leader of various TASBO committees.

He is also a member of the Association of School Business Officials International, the American Association of School Administrators, the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Alliance of Black School Educators, and has received numerous awards for “Meritorious” and “Distinguished” work in the area of school finance.

Federal funds allow work to start on two METRO lines


NORTHEAST – Officials held simultaneous groundbreakings last Monday morning, July 13 to mark the start of construction on light rail lines. Participating at the North Corridor ceremony on Fulton Street were METRO Chairman David Wolff, Congressman Gene Green, and City Councilman Ed Gonzalez.

The day of celebration kicked off with two separate ceremonies at the North and Southeast corridors, as well as a reception at the East End corridor. Participants from each corridor event were then transported via METRO buses to the grand finale at Union Station at Minute Maid Park.

At the North Corridor event, Chairman Wolff announced that the first work order for $121 million has officially been signed. That means initial construction on the North and Southeast lines is expected to get underway in the coming days. Activity on the East End line, which is already under construction, will increase.

All three lines – the North, Southeast and East End – are slated to be completed by 2012, and will add approximately 14 miles of light rail to METRO’s existing Main Street Red Line. The speakers also honed in on the significance of $150 million set aside in President Obama’s FY2010 budget to help build the North and Southeast lines. The two rail lines were among five transit projects in the nation selected to receive funding.

Traveling from the nation’s capital to the Bayou City to participate in the festivities were U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Congressman Gene Green (D-TX), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Congressman Al Green (D-TX). Joining the delegation were Mayor Bill White and Houston City Council members, as well as METRO Board Chairman David S. Wolff and METRO Board members.

Rep. Gene Green, on July 15, announced that the House Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies has preliminarily approved $150 million for Houston METRO’s North and Southeast lines, with $75 million dedicated to each project. This funding would include final design, land acquisition, and construction for the first segments on the North Corridor and Southeast Corridor Projects.

“The President’s FY2010 budget asked that $150 million be appropriated to Houston METRO for construction on the North and Southeast Corridor Projects, and I thank the subcommittee for realizing the importance of these projects by placing it in their recommendations,” said Green.

“While there are still several steps to take before final approval of funding for these projects occurs, I am glad Congress continues their commitment to public transportation in Houston.”

There has been an effort in Congress to foster the development and revitalization of public transportation systems that maximize mobility, minimize environmental impacts and minimize transportation-related fuel consumption. The subcommittee included $10.5 billion for public transportation projects in their recommendations.

The Houston Business Journal reports that Houston traffic is the ninth worst in the nation. Houston drivers spent 123.9 million hours in traffic in 2007 and use almost 90 million more gallons of fuel because of the delays every year, costing over $2.5 billion.

“I am joined by the rest of the Houston delegation, including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee and Congressman Al Green in thanking Chairman of the Subcommittee John Oliver for his continued support of Texas’ transportation needs,” said Green. “Houston’s population continues to increase and the metropolitan area expands everyday. We need to work to widen the reach of our public transportation system so that it serves more Houstonians and helps protect our city.”

Small and local businesses are expected to receive $300 million to $385 million in eligible contract work.

HCC meeting at North Forest presents benefits of Annexation


A large crowd of interested citizens turned out last Tuesday evening at North Forest Shadydale school, to hear a presentation by representatives of the Houston Community College Northeast.

The meeting was one of a series, as preparation for an election in November that will determine whether the North Forest ISD becomes part of the HCC-NE service area. The consequences of this election were explained by a panel of HCC board members, and by HCC-NE president Margaret Ford Fisher.

In addition, comments were heard from about a dozen members of the audience, and a telephone message from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee in support of the annexation, and questions and comments about the financial and academic consequences of the vote, voiced by State Senator Mario Gallegos.

Most of the comments from the public were in favor of the annexation, and emphasized that it was time for a change and improvements in North Forest. President Fisher pointed out that an election was necessary because over 3000 validated signatures on a petition had requested the election. She explained the Service Plan, emphasizing that HCC-NE has had a commitment to the North Forest community since 1971. It currently provides dual credits for high school juniors and seniors, which since 2005 have equaled $350,000 in waived tuition.

If the annexation is successful, benefits to North Forest would include reduced tuition, going from $104 per credit hour, to half that, or $57, not including fees. This means a full-time student would save about $1600 for the fall and spring semester. Other benefits promised by HCC would be an Early College High School, and a satellite campus named North Forest Vocational and Technical Training Institute.

HCC also plans to work with NFISD to develop an Early Childhood Education program. Senator Gallegos questioned the cost of this annexation, and HCC’s long term commitment. Fisher responded that the tax rate is $.092 per $100 of assessed value, and showed a chart that displayed the average cost to a homeowner of $35 per year. For a senior citizen, because of their exemptions the cost would be zero, she said. Fisher pointed out that no tax increase is planned in the near future, and that in 2007 the HCC board actually decreased the tax rate.

After his questions were answered, Gallegos said he wanted to make it clear that he supported the HCC annexation proposal for North Forest. Earlier Meeting results HCC’s Board of Trustees is expected to call an election for November on the issue of adding the North Forest Independent Schools District to its district following a petition drive by local residents asking for the annexation.

HCC invited local stakeholders to a meeting on strategic priorities for the community to help guide them in developing a service plan for the area. Fifty-nine community leaders attended the meeting at the former Forest Brook High School June 24. They included current and former NFISD Board Members, representatives of the North Forest Chamber of Commerce, ministers, civic club members and leaders of the Super Neighborhood organizations.

Using as its base the results of a Visioning Session on HCC and North Forest done in 2005, the stakeholders discussed various priorities and chose the ones they felt were most important. Lafayette Howell facilitated the meeting to help with their work.

The attendees chose as their top priority “Develop a high school to college continuum in the community.” As part of this priority, they want to see HCC create an Early College High School with NFISD that includes a North Forest Vocational Technical Campus. In addition, they want HCC to help transition students from a high school diploma to a two-year degree in the academic or career/technical area. Part of this priority includes adult education, continuing education and English as a Second Language programs. HCC Northeast, NFISD, community groups and organizations would work together to create student internships, co-op opportunities, mentorships and employment.

The second highest priority was “Enhanced knowledge and skill development within economic and social context.” The stakeholders want to develop a business incubator and small business technology support services for the North Forest community, as well as supporting residents who want to explore new economic opportunities, update their work-related skills or pursue vocational interests. The idea is to provide programs in areas vital to the economic development of NFISD and the community and work to keep skilled individuals in the North Forest Community.

“Improved access to education and training at HCC” was the third-ranked priority. This includes adult literacy and College Connections programs at NFISD, expanded student support and retention in existing programs and working with local employers to provide tuition reimbursement, teaching current workers new skills and building programs to link low-skill jobs to higher-skilled work at higher wages.

The fourth priority is for an “Expanded range of programs and services for North Forest residents.” The attendees want HCC to maintain the affordability of a post-secondary education through tuition, financial assistance, scholarships and tuition reimbursement, as well as expanding access to other means of education such as hybrid courses and workplace or community-based programs.

Green anuncia $150M para Houston METRO norte y pasillos surorientales

Representante Gene Green, el 15 de julio, anunció que el subcomité de La Casa de Represestantes en el transporte, cubierta y desarrollo urbano, y las agencias relacionadas han aprobado preliminar $150 millones para Houston METRO norte y líneas surorientales, con $75 millones dedicados a cada proyecto.

Esta financiación incluiría diseño, la adquisición de tierra, y la construcción finales para los primeros segmentos en el pasillo del norte y los proyectos surorientales del pasillo.

Ha habido un esfuerzo en congreso para fomentar el desarrollo y la revitalización de los sistemas de transporte públicos que maximizan movilidad, reducen al mínimo consecuencias para el medio ambiente y reducen al mínimo la consumición de combustible transporte-relacionada.

El subcomité incluyó $10.5 mil millones para los proyectos del transporte público en sus recomendaciones. El diario del negocio de Houston divulga que el tráfico de Houston es el noveno peor de la nación. Los conductores de Houston pasaron 123.9 millones de horas en tráfico en 2007 y usan casi 90 millones de más galones de combustible debido a los retardos cada año, cálculo del coste sobre $2.5 mil millones.

La población de Houston continúa aumentando y la zona metropolitana amplía diario. Necesitamos trabajar para ensanchar el alcance de nuestro sistema de transporte público de modo que sirva más Houstonians y las ayudas protejan nuestra ciudad.”

Texas issues new license plate design


HOUSTON – July 9, 2009 – Harris County Tax Assessor – Collector Leo Vasquez has alerted vehicle owners that a new, more colorful license plate will be available soon.

“We’re getting low on the old-style plates and have distributed the new plates to our 16 branches, the only places you can buy them in Harris County. When a branch runs out of the old-style plates – some time in the next few days – it will begin selling the new plates,” Vasquez explained.

“They are pretty but, more important, the new plates have seven numbers and/or letters, compared to six on the general issue plates that are being phased out. The Texas Department of Transportation estimates the seven-character pattern has enough unique combinations to be sufficient for 35 years.

“If your plates are seven years old or older when you renew your registration, the new plates are free. If your plates are newer but you want to buy the new plates, there is a charge of $6.30 in addition to any registration fee.”

Many new plates were displayed at a presentation in the Tax Office’s Distribution Center. There, Vasquez highlighted the several convenient ways to renew vehicle registration if you are not buying plates. He pointed out that vehicle owners can “renew your vehicle registration by mail, online at www.hcauto.net or at nearly 200 participating grocery stores. You can find the nearest grocery store through our Web site.” To renew by mail, mail your renewal notice with a copy of your insurance card and your check made out to Leo Vasquez. Send them to the Harris County Tax Office P.O. Box 4089, Houston, TX 77210-4089. It’s even easier online.

Another time-saving option is to buy a registration sticker that is good for 23 months, so you avoid an annual purchase. The 23-month sticker is available only at the Tax Office locations.

Vasquez stressed, “I know your time is valuable; choose the option that’s best for you.”

For more information regarding Harris County vehicle registration, please call 713-368-2000. Visit www.hcauto.net to find a Tax Office branch or participating grocery store near you.

For more information on the new seven-character license plates, please go to http://www.txdot.gov/drivers_vehicles/license_plates/default.htm.