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Posts published in April 2013

Developing North Houston – Chamber panel highlights growth opportunities

NORTH HOUSTON – The burgeoning economy for development in North Houston is being examined in a series of panels and luncheons by the Houston Intercontinental Chamber, according to its president, Reggie Gray.

The first of these presentations was last Thursday, at a chamber luncheon at the Sheraton JFK Hotel. Two developers and a representative of Lone Star College North Harris presented details of their plans to invest in large projects in North Houston.

These were Johanna Boley of Lone Star College North Harris, Jay Kraft and Hans Brindley of Liberty Property Trust, and Ryan McCord of Generation Park and McCord Development.

A large audience of business principals and chamber members listened with interest, since many of them are also involved in similar projects in the area.

According to Johanna Boley, Lone Star College must invest a total of $497.7 million in new facilities, just to meet the needs of approximately 30,000 students that have enrolled since the last bond referendum in 2008. Boley explained that the money would be used to build new instructional space on all six LSC campuses, and of special interest in North Houston is a new campus in Aldine on a 61 acre site on Aldine Mail Route that would include an 85,000 sf building and 650 parking spaces. Development on this site would include other partners, to form a town center urban environment. Others that have expressed an interest are Harris County Sheriff’s office, East Aldine District, YMCA, and other institutions.

Boley said that due to increases in assessed valuation of properties within the LSC service area, no increase in the tax rate would be required to pay for the bonds.

Upon completion of the bond construction, Lone Star College will have a total of 90,000 students enrolled in credit, non-credit and continuing education classes, making this the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area.

Generation Park

Ryan McCord, president of McCord Development, presented updated information on a very large, 4000 acre mixed-use master planned corporate development project that his company owns and is developing along Beltway 8 East/Sam Houston Parkway. This project has a long term prospect of materially changing the nature of living and working in Northeast Houston. Generation Park will accommodate small and large corporate headquarters, offices, manufacturing, and warehousing for a variety of business types, McCord said. The size of the project indicates it will take up to 20 years to fully develop, but 650 acres are ready for building currently.

The site is located on either side of Beltway 8 East, near the Summerwood community. McCord points out it is only 10 miles to the IAH airport, and 10 miles to the Port of Houston, an ideal industrial location. It has rail and highway connectivity. The master plan includes lakes, trails, landscaping, and ESE Energy efficient features.

Liberty Property Trust

Jay Kraft and Hans Brindley represented the local branch of a one of the nation’s largest real estate development firms. They are active in building corporate facilities in the Greenspoint and greater Houston area. They presented details of some of their construction projects.

The Chamber will continue their Developing North Houston programs in June, with the North Houston Economic Development Council presentation.

East Aldine continues ME/MF sewer work

Groundbreaking on Phase Two of the Mary Eleanor/Mary Francis Sewer Project took place on Thursday, April 25, continuing an extensive water and sewer project that will benefit 200 residents of East Aldine.

Dignitaries including Commissioner Jack Morman, Precinct 2, members of the East Aldine Board of Directors, staff from the offices of Rep. Armando Walle Office and Senator Sylvia Garcia Office, and the Board Directors of Sunbelt Fresh Water Supply District were on hand for the groundbreaking. Officials from Harris County Community Services and the Public Infrastructure Department, as well as the construction contractor Reliance Construction, were also on hand. The groundbreaking took place at the corner of Bertrand and Rechelle.

Funding came from a $1.19 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, and the balance came from the East Aldine Management District in the form of leveraging funds.

The new lift station and sanitary sewer collection system will alleviate health issues arising from the septic tank systems currently used to manage waste in the community that have contributed to higher bacteria counts in Halls Bayou, as monitored by the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

“The Number One priority is public health. This project takes away the issue of failing septic systems that have been a threat to children who play nearby,” said Scott Bean, director of infrastructure for the East Aldine Management District. “It’s also a big plus for homeowners in the District and for water quality downstream.” Phase One of the project, serving 50 homes, began in June.

Family Day at Turner Park draws 15,000

Last Saturday, April 13 saw a huge crowd descend on Sylvester Turner Park on W. Little York and Victory, to have a “Family Day” full of fun, food, games and recreation.

This 6th annual event has become a much anticipated day for all ages in Northwest and Northeast Houston. Turner emphasizes that it is all free, thanks to many sponsors.

The sunny weather brought out a full crowd, starting around noon and going strong until dusk. Plenty of food was available all day, including turkey legs, sausage on a stick, hot dogs, popcorn, nachos and more.

Games included baseball on the fields, with Texas Southern and Southern University playing at the north end, and Youth baseball on the southern fields. Basketball was also a favorite, with contests for players.

Music was provided by J. Paul and the Zydeco Nubreeds, and the Eisenhower Jazz Band played Jazz music. The Aldine Dance company from Carver high school performed dance routines, and the public was welcome to dance themselves later in the day.

Huge “Hamster Balls” with people inside, provided by Comcast, were a great hit and an hilarious sight.

Rock climbing was another popular event for older kids, and younger kids enjoyed face painting and slides.

Seniors took part in games, including bingo and dominoes.

To help with the parking, METRO provided shuttle buses from three nearby locations.

Brittney Griner chosen #1 in Women’s NBA professional basketball draft

Aldine Nimitz high school’s outstanding women’s basketball player, Brittney Griner, has been chosen #1 in the first round of the professional women’s WNBA player draft, held last Monday night in Bristol, Connecticut.

She was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury team. Griner was an outstanding player for the Baylor Bears womens team during the last four years, having been named the number one woman’s player in the nation by several authorities.

Brittney Griner, 22, stands 6’-8” tall. She is the first NCAA player ever to score 2000 points, and block 500 shots. In 2012 the three-time All-American was named the AP Player of the Year, and the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

The draft was televised on ESPN2, and Griner was interviewed by the network as well. During an interview with Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, she revealed that she was a lesbian, but was comfortable with that. She said “just be who you are. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say.”

Also drafted from the Houston area were two other players, Kelsey Bone from Dulles high school and Texas A & M was drafted #5 by New York Liberty, and Waltiea Rolle of Westbury Christian high school and North Carolina, was drafted #36 by Minnesota.

Griner will start playing for Phoenix on May 27th.

Aldine Scholarships to be announced at May 23rd Recognition Ceremony

ALDINE – Review committees and school guidance counselors are hard at work, reading and evaluating at least 202 scholarship applications from eligible Aldine ISD students that need financial aid to continue to college.

This is the first year that scholarships will come from a combined Aldine Scholarship Foundation and Aldine Education Foundation process. The ASF scholarships will be for Lone Star College entrants, and the AEF awards can be used at any college.

Last year the ASF awarded 88 scholarships at $1000 each to students planning to attend Lone Star College System schools, and since their inception in 1991 they have given 932 scholarships to date.

The AEF initiative will allow donors to give more and larger amounts for scholarships, and will also use some of the monies for grants to teachers for innovative teaching techniques and programs.

It is expected that a total of 113 scholarships will be awarded by AEF for the 2013 year from donor funds, and another thirteen from funds provided by the East Aldine District, for MacArthur area students.

The ASF has been combined with the new Aldine Education Foundation, and a governing board of about 30 persons is in charge of the AEF program.

The group is planning a recognition ceremony on Thursday May 23rd at the new Davis High School. At this time, all scholarship winners would be announced and their awards given, as well as recognition to major donors. It is expected that about 500 students, parents, donors, AEF members and educators will attend this ceremony. The program is under the direction of AEF board member C. C. Sutphen. The scholarship awards are under the program committee, headed by former Aldine superintendent Nadine Kujawa.

A Donor Recognition event is planned for June 11th, according to Crissy Baumann of the board. This will be held at the Aldine Administration offices, and plaques naming the donors to the AEF will be permanently displayed on the wall of the building, she said.

Other AEF fundraising events in the planning stage are a Walk-A-Thon, and a fall kick-off breakfast for the next fundraising campaign.

Harris County Attorney files a lawsuit against game room

NORTHEAST (April 8, 2013)–Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan announced that a lawsuit has been filed against a northeast Houston game room where a security guard was shot on Sunday, April 7, 2013.

The lawsuit filed March 14th asked a judge to order the Treasure Island Club, 13719 Homestead Road, to stop alleged illegal gambling. The lawsuit said the owners Billy J. Hammond and Minh T. Hammond had been warned by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

On Sunday (April 7) morning during an apparent attempted robbery, a man in a ski mask fired several shot gun blasts wounding a security guard. The man and a woman who appeared to be with him fled the scene.

The game room has been the location of at least three gambling investigations. The machines commonly called eight liners resemble Las Vegas style slot machines. Machines are illegal if they pay out more than ten times the amount charged to play the game or $5 whichever is less.

Ryan said the shooting of the security guard is an example of the criminal activity that illegal game rooms attract. “These places are not safe for customers or neighbors,” County Attorney Ryan said. Ryan explained that illegal game rooms generate large amounts of cash, leading to crime in the areas in which they are located, including robberies, assaults and homicides.

County Attorney Ryan’s office is authorized by state law to file civil lawsuits against businesses that fail to take steps to stop or control illegal activity. After hearing the case, the judge may sign an order to force the business to close if it does not stop the illegal activity.

The lawsuit is scheduled for a hearing on May 17th.

East Aldine holds a Garden Party!

A large group of wanna-bee urban gardeners showed up last Saturday morning, at Orange Grove Elementary School, to participate in the new East Aldine Community Garden. The gardens themselves are on adjacent land owned by the East Aldine District, and open to anyone that joins the gardening group and follows a few simple group rules, explained East Aldine’s Natali Lacasa.

Saturday’s work session was held with about 75 adults and youths participating. Expert guidance for planting the six beds was given by Ray Sher, a consultant from Urban Harvest in Houston.

The gardens consist of six raised beds, about three feet by 15 feet, defined by concrete block and filled with rich soil.

Groups that have indicated an interest in one of the beds include Bonding Against Adversity, Orange Grove Elementary, Girl Scout Troop #12011, National Technical Honor Society from MacArthur High, HOSA from MacArthur, Sheriff’s Explorer Post #42, and the local North Houston Heights Civic Association.

So far the garderners have planted tomatoes, radishes, summer squash, and mint, but there are no restrictions on what anyone can plant, including flowers, except size considerations.

The Gardening Consultant Ray Sher is from the Urban Harvest organization, and guided all the participants on best practices, planting techniques, watering considerations, weeding, and how often they should tend their plants. Urban Harvest is a national organization, started in Seattle, with a large presence in Houston. They have helped start over 100 community gardens in the Houston area, and conduct the Farmer’s Markets held downtown weekly.

The Community Garden associaton plans to meet monthly, and have three harvest seasons each year. There is room for more gardens to be built, according to Natali Lacasa and Richard Cantu of the East Aldine District. If you are interested in information, or to join and plant, call Natali at 713-595-1226.

TEA Commissioner affirms closing of North Forest ISD, merge with Houston ISD

AUSTIN, April 1, 2013 – Following a review requested by the North Forest Independent School District (NFISD), the district’s challenge to Commissioner Michael L. Williams’ recommendation to close the NFISD and annex it into the Houston Independent School District (HISD) has been denied.

After several attempts from NFISD to avoid closure and merge with HISD, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) ordered last April 1, 2013 the North Forest Independent School District closed effective July 1, 2013, and merged into the Houston ISD.

Statement from Superintendent Edna Forté:

“We at North Forest ISD are disappointed by the TEA’s decision to merge North Forest with HISD. Because we truly believe partnering with the charter schools that make up PHILO is the best option for the children of North Forest, we will appeal this decision to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Regardless of the outcome, the faculty and staff will continue to move forward with the transformative work we are doing at North Forest ISD to complete a successful year.”

In May 2012, NFISD requested a review of a decision to revoke the district’s accreditation. That review was denied. However, NFISD’s closure and annexation was abated for one year to allow the district the ability to demonstrate improvement, and attempt to meet certain conditions and requirements.

On Feb. 7, Williams notified NFISD representatives of his formal recommendation for closure and annexation. Williams based his decision on the district’s continued poor academic performance over the past year as reflected in its low high school completion rate and poor performance on statewide assessments.

Representatives of North Forest ISD requested a re-opening of its record review for the limited purpose of determining the district’s compliance with the terms and conditions of last year’s order. On March 15, TEA Chief Deputy Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds, who was designated by the previous commissioner in 2012 as TEA’s final decision-maker in this matter, conducted a record review.

In her decision, Reynolds affirmed the district had failed to sufficiently improve the completion rate at North Forest High School. The district also failed to improve student performance district-wide on statewide assessments. Both were established in 2012 as conditions for withdrawing the closure and annexation order.

“Throughout this process, the priority has been the students of North Forest and assuring they each receive the quality education they deserve,” said Commissioner Williams. “My hope is that today’s decision marks the next step toward making that goal a reality.”

During the record review, Reynolds also determined that NFISD annexation into the Houston ISD would not substantially impair HISD’s ability to educate its current students or to pay its pre-annexation obligations. While the NFISD did present a memorandum of understanding it recently signed with PHILO School Management, the MOU’s lack of specificity and the limited time to implement did not support withdrawal of the Commissioner’s closure order.

The Commissioner’s order to close and annex NFISD is effective July 1, 2013. The NFISD may appeal this decision to the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

Cynthia Bailey, wife of Clyde, dies

Cynthia D. Bailey, 59 of New Caney, Texas passed away April 3, 2013 9:30 am.

Cynthia was born on October 14, 1953 in Houston Texas to Lady Sandra Perault and Billy Joe Peters. She graduated with honors from MacArthur High School in Aldine in 1973. She was active in her class, and she participated in student council and other class activities. She went to Sam Houston State for one year.

She and her husband Clyde Bailey were married on August 21, 1974 and they enjoyed 39 years of marriage. They lived in Aldine for 5 years, and they moved to Kingwood for the next 24 years.

In 2003, Cynthia, Clyde, and her son Adam moved to New Caney and lived happily until her death. Cynthia loved her son, nieces, nephews, friends, and loved ones with all her heart. Loving and giving in all of her communities her whole life. “Aunt Cindy” was a shining example of a loving individual.

Cindy is survived by husband, Clyde; son, Adam; brother, Mike Harris; sister-in-law, Debra Harris; brother, Kelton King; sister-in-law, Betty Brown; brother-in-law, Leon Brown; sister-in law, Diane Bailey; brother-in-law, Weldon Bailey; brother-in-law, Johnny White; sister-in law, Barbara White; numerous nieces and nephews, grand-nieces, grand- nephews, and friends.

A Memorial Service was held at 3PM on Sunday, April 7th at Brookside.

I will miss you my love, Clyde

Loving Spain, then and now

By Kristan Hoffman

Seven years ago, I fell in love with a boy. He was my closest friend in college – someone who made me laugh, challenged me to challenge myself, and listened to all my hopes and fears without judgment. One night while we were hanging out in his dorm, I confessed my feelings for him and then bolted out the door. By the time I got back to my own room, there was an email waiting. He had feelings for me too.

For the next month, things were perfect. Every touch was electric, every smile laced with the shared secret of our affection. When we left campus for winter break – me to Houston, him to upstate New York – I expected the absence to make our hearts grow fonder. I expected the new year to be better and brighter and blissfully full of our burgeoning love.

Instead, on our first day back for the Spring semester, he broke up with me.

Naturally I was devastated. I had no idea what I’d done wrong and no idea how to fix it. I spent the following two weeks in a depression, robotically going to classes and club meetings, doing my homework, and eating only because I had to.

Eventually I pulled myself from this abyss, forced myself to take care of my mind and body so that my spirit could mend. And when an unexpected opportunity arose to escape my regular life – which felt like the mere husk of an existence – I snatched it. An old friend was studying abroad, and a surprise stipend from my summer internship meant that I could afford to visit her.

Nine days in Spain didn’t heal my broken heart, but it helped. My feet kissed the cobbled streets of Granada, my arms embraced the scorching air of Sevilla. I drank in the architecture and history of Valencia. I floated in the shining blue waters off Barcelona.

On the last day of my trip, I took a stroll alone through Buen Retiro park in Madrid. Couples in rowboats drifted across the small lake, and behind that, groups of young people sat chatting and laughing on the steps of the big stone monument. The lush green park made me feel small, and the cheerful conversations made me feel alone, but in the best possible way. Because I was finally happy, all on my own, even on the other side of the world from everything I knew.

My lost and drifting love had found a new place to anchor, a new place to call home. The gaping emptiness inside of me had grown smaller, because Spain had started the process of filling it.

The rest I would have to do on my own, of course. With time.

* * *

Seven years later, I returned to Spain, very much happy and whole. This time, I came with the very boy who had once broken my heart. Between then and now, we had weathered many highs and lows. I supported him through a campus controversy; he supported me through drama with friends. We got back together and we broke up; we fought and we made up. He graduated and accepted a job in another city; I graduated and moved in with him. We met each other’s families, we adopted a puppy, we got a joint credit card.

We had started building a future together, so I wanted to make peace with our past by visiting Spain. In a way, I was introducing one lover to another. But there was no jealousy or fighting – just good food, good sights, and good company. As we strolled hand-in-hand through Buen Retiro park, I was reminded once again of why I fell in love. With both of them.