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Posts published in “Day: July 14, 2009”

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.

Management Districts report on new projects, accomplishments

Annual Chamber Luncheon hears 5 District reports


GREENSPOINT – The North Houston Greenspoint Chamber held their 3rd Annual Management District Update, at their monthly luncheon last Thursday at the Greenspoint Marriott Hotel.

These much anticipated “good news” presentations were moderated by Barbara Radnofsky, candidate for Texas Attorney General. The executive directors of the area’s five management districts, Greenspoint, Greenspoint Redevelopment, East Aldine, Airline, and Greater Northside made reports using slides, on the activities within their districts in the last year, and plans for the next year developments.

Chamber president Reggie Gray gave away two Continental airline tickets for travel anywhere in their domestic system. Other planned Chamber events include next month’s luncheon on August 6th at the Doubletree Hotel, for presentations by the Aldine and Spring school districts, and school supplies donations.

GREENSPOINT DISTRICT


The oldest District represented at the Chamber luncheon is the Greenspoint Management District, with President Jack Drake making the presentation. The District started in 1990, and is noted for its corporate tenants, including many of the 80 major energy companies represented in Houston. It is also known for its Air Cargo Center functions. The District is supported by an assessment on commercial property owners.

Drake pointed out that since 1991, major improvements have occurred in Crime statistics. Although population has increased by 48% since then, and Employment by 106%, nevertheless crime is down 42%, much of it due to public safety partnerships between the authorities and the Greenspoint District.

Major new accomplishments this year include a new 3 acre park, Ide Gay Gardens, as part of a new 10 acre development, a mobility study that will direct $16 million in improvements to the Sam Houston Parkway between now and 2012, a potential for a Metro light rail station on the airport line.

New wayfinding or signage programs are underway, as well as a major study with the Greens Bayou Coalition to combat flooding along that waterway, and develop public facilities on the adjacent properties.

Drake spoke about major new developments at the intersection of I-45 and the Parkway (see rendering above), built by IDI and Sysco, which will be the city’s largest business park.

GREENSPOINT REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY


The Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority is headed by Sally Bradford, Executive Director, and is charged with developing projects in the public areas. They currently have 12 projects underway or completed since 2003.

These include Benmar Bridge, Greenspoint Drive Bridge, Buckboard Park, and improvements to Greenspoint Drive. This will include a 16’ tall sculpture in the median, by artist Kevin Mock. The redevelopment project to add theaters, restaurants, and outdoor water features and shops to Greenspoint Mall is now under review by the City, and construction is anticipated within 60 days, Bradford said. Included will be a 20 screen movie theater, and a sports bar named GlennLock, after Aldine professional football player Aaron Glenn.

In conjunction with the Flood Control District, a new recreation park is planned near Greens Road, with 16 soccer fields, including 8 that are lit at night. A major new feature will be a Skate Park on Kuykendahl, with 10.23 acres. This will include the city’s largest skateboard park, and a “park without boundaries” a new concept for those who are physically challenged but want outdoor recreation.

Airline Drive is also scheduled for 5 blocks of improvements, including art, parks and plazas. Bradford said that a new city fire station is scheduled for Gears Road on a 10 acre site that might eventually include police, and a fitness park. In all, $25 million in work is planned for 2010, and $30 million for 2011 she said.

EAST ALDINE DISTRICT


The East Aldine District is one of the older Districts, having been created in 2001, and in August 2002 its Service and Action plan was adopted. Executive Director David Hawes presented the history and the accomplishments of the District to the luncheon audience.

The District covers 15 square miles, and has 15,000 residents. It is supported by a 1% sales tax, and that generates about $3.5 million per year.

Its Service Plan calls for new Sewer and Wastewater facilities, Public Safety, Mobility, Economic Development, and improvements in lifestyle for its residents.

Hawes pointed out that three Water/Sewer projects have been completed, and three more are now funded and construction has started. A study has shown a need for a total of $150 in this type of improvement. Inwood Place, Sherwood Place, and Benton Place are the next areas to receive water/sewer, a $3.5 million project east of US59.

The District’s Public Safety includes a “Directed Response” Unit with 4 deputies and a Sergeant; 2 day/evening officers for Calls for Service, a Nuisance Abatement officer, and bike patrols in the parks and shopping areas.

Mobility work will include widening of Aldine Mail Route from Airline to Aldine Westfield, and new intersection designs.

Other accomplishments include a Clean Aldine program, Signage and Monumentation plans, Walkable trails, Economic Development plans, including a new Community Campus complex, and leadership grants for worthy recipients.

AIRLINE IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT


Airline District is headed by Executive Director Teri Koerth, and was formed in September 2005 by House Bill 1458. It comprises an area of 3.5 square miles, and has approximately 16,000 residents.

It is supported by a 1% sales tax. Koerth presented a chart which showed that the projected income for 2009 will be $784,000. She pointed out in the slides that since this is a relatively small amount of income, it is necessary for the District to stretch this money by seeking grants and partnerships with other entities. This includes the state, county, and other Districts.

Accomplishments include Public Safety with 3 full-time deputies, and a shared Nuisance Abatement officer with Greenspoint District.

Other projects include installing 92 streetlights on Airline Drive, and a continuing Graffiti Abatement program that will clean 600 sites this year, at no cost to property owners.

A Water/Wastewater Study has been completed, which is necessary to apply for grant funding. The District will also get its first Public Park in the near future. A 10 acre site has been acquired and will be developed.

Although Airline is often thought of as comprised of small businesses, Koerth pointed out that UPS has a large terminal on Sweetwater, and employs 1700 people there.

However, a major characteristic of Airline is the weekend flea markets, attracting 40,000 persons each weekend. Due to the traffic problems this creates, a traffic study is underway to solve this and provide better emergency access.

GREATER NORTHSIDE MANAGEMENT DISTRICT


For the first time, the Greater Northside Management District was represented at the Chamber luncheon, by Rebecca Reyna, Executive Director. Through charts, she showed the extent of this large district, running from Little York south to I-10, and from 290 on the west to US59 on the east. The area covered is approximately 24 square miles. The District is supported by a tax assessment on commercial property, similar to the Greenspoint funding. It was only in 2007 that this tax was started for collection, and due to limited funds the District has been trying to partner to accomplish their projects. The current yearly budget is $750,000. Included in the GNMD area is the renewed Northline Mall area, now known as Northline Commons.

Accomplishments of the District include their own 2 man police department for Safety Patrols, a Graffiti abatement program that cleaned 2357 sites in 2008, and a Right-of-Way cleaning program that clears 420 miles of streets.

Working with the City of Houston, the District conducts a Code Enforcement program.

The most important change this year will be the construction of the METRO light rail on Fulton Street. Groundbreaking for this is Monday, July 13.

Other projects underway are a TIRZ on Hardy, a study for the Hardy Rail Yard, and a Multi-Use Development for the FedEx property in the District. The Farmer’s Market on Airline will be improved, and a Livable Center Study is underway to create great public spaces.

Restoring dignity to Native Americans


Today, I am a little upset and somewhat depressed. I’m involved in a controversy. Not that that is news for me but it is the subject. It involves a remains, whole or parts, of 664 Native Americans who were unearthed by some archeologists working for the State of West Virginia in 1963. It is an involved and complex situation that has been in controversy in these parts for at least the past 25 years.

Since the white man came to this area centuries ago no Native American tribes have been known to live in what is now West Virginia. Several groups in Kentucky, Ohio, etc. used this area for hunting and passing through. However, farmers plowing fields in the area of Buffalo, W. Va. (a few miles up the Kanawha River from the Ohio River) unearthed many human bones in the 1800s and early 1900s causing some excitement, curiosity, ghoulishness, etc. The state, through its State Archeologist, intervened and established a dig. From that dig came the remains of some 664 remains. There could be others on that site or nearby but so far no others have been found and no formal digs have been held since then. The remains were removed to West Virginia University, Morgantown where many non-invasive studies were held. It was rather well established that these remains were from Native Americans of the 14th and 15th centuries.

After these studies the remains were kept there for a few years before being sent to Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh. More studies were made and the remains were put in storage there for a few years before being sent on to Toledo, Oh. University. More tests and more storage occurred until those involved no longer had use for them and they were placed on a loading dock for trash disposal. Persons from Ohio State heard about this and removed them to Columbus. There, more tests were done and then the remains went into storage once again.

No Native American Tribe wanted to take responsibility for them, no other university or museum wanted them, including West Virginia (the State and the University). They languished on storage shelves at Ohio State for years. This was much to the chagrin of many Native Americans in the area who wanted them returned to this State and reburied, near the original graves. That was, and is, complicated because the traditional Native American thought is to bury remains in an unknown and unmarked place. It should be done by the tribe proving to have the greatest connection to the remains.

With all of the local publicity that this issue has garnered, and with no local tribe to take responsibility, that became difficult to say the least. Some of the local residents, Native Americans and Whites, persisted and a couple of years ago Putnam County authorities (site of the original burial grounds) gave permission for a few people to find an appropriate unmarked site and to secure the remains for reburial. The first part was accomplished some nine months to a year ago.

Ohio State agreed to release the remains and everything seemed to be set in order until the State of West Virginia intervened. The State took the remains and have them in storage at The Grave Creek Mound museum (not on display) in Moundsville (near Wheeling) where they remain today. Many of the state leaders, led by a group of archeologists, do not want the remains reburied. Instead they want them kept in storage in case other uses might be found for them in the future.

I, and many others, are finding this difficult to handle and are advocating for the turnover of these remains to Putnam County and reburied where they may again rest in peace. West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin currently has a petition signed by several hundred Putnam residents asking for the return. So far there has been no response and his underlings on his staff and the Department of Cultural and History would like to see this whole issue quietly disappear. It isn’t likely to happen in the near future.

In the meantime I am preparing columns for local distribution that continue to advocate for the reburial. Those on that side of the issue remain hopeful even if the power base is elsewhere.

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

Don Springer is a writer for the Charleston, West Virginia newspapers, but he and his wife often visit in Houston. He can be reached at touchlife@worldnet.att.net