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Posts published in “Day: November 1, 2011”

A night under the stars

By Kristan Hoffman

On my most recent trip home to Houston, my parents and I went to Clear Lake for an evening sail on our boat. The weather was good, the waters calm. After a busy day, we were looking forward to the relaxing rhythm of the waves and the fresh, salty air.

Unfortunately, when we got to the marina, we found several inches of water inside the cabin. Somehow our sailboat had partially flooded! So instead of a leisurely night enjoying the surf and the breeze, we spent two hours with a plastic bucket and a leaky pump, bailing out the stale and murky water.

By the time we finished, we had mosquito bites on our ankles, our clothes were spattered with dirt, and our skin was covered in a fine layer of seawater and sweat. Anyone in their right mind would have been miserable. And yet, my parents and I smiled and joked as we headed to the bathrooms to clean up.

Upon reflection, I realized that in a weird way, I actually enjoyed that night of gross, sweaty work. Because my parents and I were spending time together. Because I was helpful to them.

As an only child, I’ve always had a close relationship with my parents. But now that I live so far away, I see just how much we did as a family, and how hard it is to do that kind of stuff now. Thanks to technology, my parents are never more than a phone call or an email away, but it’s not the same as hopping in the car for ice cream at Dairy Queen, or going to see a movie on a whim, or just hanging out at home with the TV on, all of us sitting in our “reserved seats” on the couch. Things that I used to take for granted. Things that aren’t so easy anymore.

Whenever I visit home, my mom asks if I want to do anything, and my dad asks if I want to go anywhere. Favorite restaurants, new museum exhibits, the beach at Galveston, even Austin or San Antonio. I know they just want me to have fun, but I always tell them not to go to any trouble. They can’t understand why.

That night, after our decidedly not-relaxing evening on the boat, we put our swimsuits on, rinsed off, and then hopped into the community pool at the marina. Beneath a dark sky filled with stars, we floated on our backs and kicked our legs. We sat on the deck chairs and ate cherries. We talked and laughed and talked some more.

I guess that’s the real reason that night didn’t feel miserable to me. That’s why we don’t need to go anywhere or do anything special. Because we’re together, spending time as a family again. And that’s enough.

Free window stickers available for safety

EAST ALDINE– The Public Safety committee of the East Aldine Management District has a new tool to protect the lives of our residents, according to EAMD Director of Services Richard Cantu.

The “People Locator” is an adhesive type sticker that people can put in the windows of their homes, displayed toward the street, so public safety officials such as sheriff’s deputies and fire department and EMS personnel can know that someone in the house requires assistance in case of an emergency.

Typically this would be an elderly person, or a pre-school child that is still at home and might need assistance to vacate the house in case of a fire or other emergency.

Cantu said these stickers are available for free at the District offices, 5333 Aldine Mail Route, next to Jed’s Hardware store.

Local fire and emergency departments are cooperating in their distribution and in answering distress calls related to their display.

Aldine ISD updates business partners at luncheon

By Julieta Paita

NORTHEAST NEWS

During the first superintendent’s business advisory committee meeting this past October 25, Dr. Wanda Bamberg, Aldine school district superintendent, shared important information about the school district’s financial challenges.

With 64 thousand students currently enrolled, Aldine ISD has a challenge to keep up with budget. Dr. Wanda Bamberg said the way school was receiving funds before this school year was some how different.

“There was certain law that was in place, and at the last legislature session, they did not change the law, they only changed the way we were going to be funding,” said Bamberg.

During the school year 2009-2010, the school district was schedule to receive $298 million, but $27 million of that was the federal stimulus money. The following school year, the funding went up, it was $310 million, and again $27 million was from federal stimulus money.

“The $27 million from the federal stimulus money must be spent or the school district would lose it,” said Bamberg. “We hired positions for two years, or we charge off positions that were eligible and some materials for the two years.”

The school year of 2011-2012 the district is scheduled to get $309 million, and “the special funding session gave us $284 million, for a loss of $24 million dollars,” said Bamberg. However, there is only a loss of $14 million because Aldine got $10 million from money that the government was holding.

The part of the way government set up the funding for a school district “is how many students they are projecting for the district to have, and also what are the appraisal values that Harris County says we are worth,” said Bamberg.

Dr. Wanda Bamberg explained that every year they cut the school budget to prepare for the next school year, “we cut about $43 million dollars out of our expenditures every year; we did not lay off, we prepare for it, we did not replace positions.” After balancing the budget, Dr. Bamberg said this year they have a balanced budget “because of the things we cut during the past three years.”

“Halls Ahead” meeting presents accelerated flood control plan

NORTHEAST– Harris County Flood Control officials unveiled a revamped plan for work on parks and detention facilities along Halls Bayou, at a public meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 25 held at MacArthur High School.

Named “Halls Ahead,” the new initiative replaces parts of the federal program that was presented in public meetings in 2009. Harris County decided that they could move more rapidly on their own, officials said, and let the slower federal study continue for later improvements and funding.

Therefore, this first of three meetings with the public was to listen to concerns about flood problems, erosion concerns, and solicit ideas on how bayou improvements could also enhance the urban and natural environment along the waterway.

The exhibits showed planning and construction work accomplished to date, including improvements in Keith-Wiess park, work underway at Bretshire Park on the west side of US59 at Jensen, and plans for a new detention park on the east side of US59 at Langley.

A small but interested group of residents turned out for the meeting, and looked at exhibits and exchanged ideas and information with the flood control staff and their consultants. Participants were encouraged to provide written comments, and the public is also asked to submit feedback too, up until a study deadline of Nov. 8th. These can be mailed to Halls Ahead, Attn. Dena Green, HC Flood Control, 9900 Northwest Freeway, Houston, TX 77092, or emailed to hallsahead @hcfcd.org. The exhibits and additional data on the study are available at www.halls ahead.org.

The Halls Ahead study began in August 2011, and will include two other public meetings. In early spring 2012 the second meeting will be to Review the Draft Plan, and in the summer of 2012 a Final Public Meeting will present the Recommended Plan.

Implementation of the Halls Ahead plan will be contingent upon the availability of funds. The study group will assess the possibility of potential local, state and federal partners that could assist with the implementation of projects, programs and environmental and recreational features.

While the Halls Ahead study is entended to identify additional flood damage reduction measures, it also will identify and examine opportunities for enhancing the urban environment and provide neighborhood-friendly amenities. These might include trails, parks, and habitat restoration.