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Posts published in November 2014

District l eaders meet with state lawmakers

District leaders discussed where they want state lawmakers to focus their efforts. State lawmakers will reconvene in Jan. 2015 for the 84th legislative session. Public education is expected be a big part of the discussion among state leaders.

Superintendent Dr. Wanda Bamberg addressed state lawmakers at the legislative agenda meeting. The district held the event November 18 at Vines Early Childhood/Prekindergarten Center. School board members and the district’s cabinet members were also on hand to answer any questions.

Senator Sylvia García, Representative Senfronia Thompson and Representative Sylvester Turner attended the meeting. Wendi Lojo from Senator Elect Paul Bettencourt’s office also attended.

Bamberg discussed several priorities including:

Ensuring a sufficient funding system to provide resources for legislative mandates

Securing funding for full-day prekindergarten programs

Securing a funding system that provides resources to ensure students graduate; this will also ensure students are college and career ready as defined by the state.

“Aldine ISD and other districts in Region 4 are also facing the same issues and challenges,” said Bamberg. “I and other public education leaders are asking you to consider data. Please consider the issues and challenges we are facing as you get ready for the 84th legislative session. We hope that any changes to existing state laws target improving public education for all the children we serve.”

After the presentation, Linda Reed invited the lawmakers to visit a few classrooms. Reed serves as the principal at Vines EC/PK Center. Many did visit classrooms. But some lawmakers stayed behind to have in-depth conversations with Dr. Bamberg.

Aldine hears NCI “voices”

ALDINE – The auditorium in Hambrick Middle School was filled to capacity last Thursday night, as the Aldine community heard a presentation from Neighborhood Centers Inc. on their completed study “VOICES FORUM”.

The material presented, in the form of dialogue from speakers and members of the community that were interviewed by NCI staff, presented a picture of the needs and desires of the East Aldine community that will be the focus of servies offered by the Neighborhood Centers, according to the opening speech made by Angela Blanchard, CEO of NCI.

Over 100 people from Aldine were interviewed and recorded in the process, according to Jose Rivera who led the sessions.

Emcees for the evening were NCI’s Carlos Paz, and MacArthur Homecoming Queen Bianca Hampton.

Blanchard said that NCI only goes where it is asked, but the Aldine project is well underway. She said that $1 million has been pledged from one donor, and two others have offered a total of $5 million. The project NCI proposes is a 20,000 square foot community center, with social services, business incubator, workforce services, financial services, and much more. She said the total project will cost about $20 million.

The Voices Forum found these strengths in Aldine:

1. Hardworking individuals who value their independence.

2. An education system that the community is proud of, and connects with the people.

3. People who are likely to stay in Aldine because it is home and they feel like they belong there.

These points were presented in talks, in a video presentation, and with printed materials.

The speakers each presented their viewpoints on the Aldine community, and their interest and belief in the future of the district.

There were a number of touching highlights to the program, including an opening choral number by the Hambrick Choir, and a welcome from principal Rebecca Hoyt.

State Representative Armando Walle, who is a resident of Aldine, and attended Hambrick MS and MacArthur High School, summed up the evening with a moving talk, about why he ran for office. He said that his main motivation was to see how he could help improve his community, and now he felt that the NCI proposal was “Transformative” and that everyone in the room, in fact in the community, would benefit. “This is it” he said, referring to why he ran for office, and how he could help Aldine. “This is a great foundation for everyone in this room.”

He ended with a passionate “I love this community.”

Neighborhood Centers is the largest community develoopment organization in the region that helps low-income families in emerging neighborhoods get a foothold in Houston’s booming economy.

With more than 100 years of experience and history, NCI knows what really works. Working side by side with community members, NCI discovers their strengths, craft a collective vision and design a plan to make their aspirations a reality. NCI does this by asking the right questions. They listen. And they harness the power of leaders already found in the community. Together, they create relevant solutions that matter for our neighbors — that give them access to regional opportunities. “Simply put, we build upon what works.”

Morman speaks on “Future of Pct. 2”

NORTHEAST – Speaking at the monthly meeting of the North Houston Association, Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman outlined “The Future of Precinct 2” for the audience. The event took place at the Marriott Airport Hotel last Thursday, Oct. 30.

The luncheon also served as the annual meeting of the NHA, presided over by Judge Jon Lindsay, NHA President, and Paula Lenz, NHA Executive Director.

Commissioner Morman set the context for his talk by noting that Harris County was growing at a rate of 13% in the last 3 years, and that meant that the county had to grow services and transportation to meet the needs that were created. He noted that the transportation infrastructure was now at capacity, and urged attendees to approve Proposition 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot, which would provide additional funding for highways.

He said that the County had recently passed their 2015 budget, and that even with increases in many departments, it was balanced with no tax increase, due to higher assessed values related to population growth.

Morman spoke in detail about project in his Precinct 2 that are planned to be built to meet the growth needs.

He said that there are four projects planned for the next few years, that will cost about 2 billion dollars. As early as 2017, he expects construction to start on a new bridge over the ship channel, to supplement or replace the current toll bridge at the East Loop. with a new bridge, plus a replacement, there would be 4 lanes in each direction where there are now only two narrow lanes each way.

In conjunction with these new bridges, he says the county is planning on widening the East Loop.

Also in planning stages are an expansion of Highway 146 through Baytown and Mont Belvieu, and additional lanes for the Hardy Toll Road, especially in the northern section near the new ExxonMobil development.

Morman noted that he has 15 cities within Precinct 2, and he has projects underway in all of the cities. He said that the success of all these projects is partnerships, with the state and various municipalities to provide funding and planning.

He noted a number of road projects in the precinct, especially FM2100 from Barrett Station/FM1942 to Huffman/FM1960. He characterized this project as the key to opening up the whole Northeast Harris County area for growth.

Crosby-Lynchburg Road will be widened in two phases, he said. Phase I is in design, and will cost $4.2 million. It consists of a 5 land concrete curb and gutter road with sidewalks on one side, and will run from 1942 to Arcadian Lane in Barrett Station. This coincides with a TxDOT project to widen the road from FM1942 to US90.

In Phase II of this project, the roadway will be widened with a similar design, from Arcadian Lane to Magnolia Street in Barrett, at a cost of $3.58 million.

Crosby-Lynchburg Road is the only North-South route from I-10 at Lynchburg, to FM1960 in Huffman, and traffic jams of several miles long occur frequently because it is now only two lanes in many places, he said. These projects are meant to resolve that problem.

The audience at the North Houston Association luncheon included many developers and engineers, who appreciated the update, and the initiatives that Pct. 2 Harris County has put into its plans.

Morman’s Pct. 2 includes almost a million residents, has 1300 miles of county roads, the Lynchburg Ferry and the Washburn Tunnel. It also includes 10 community centers, 50 parks, and 380 employees.

His top priority, he said, is economic growth in East Harris County, by improving the infrastructure and developing a business friendly environment in county government.

House Approves Keystone XL Pipeline


(Washington, DC) – On Friday, the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 5682 to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. The bill passed with a vote of 252-161. Congressman Gene Green released the following statement in response:

“I’m pleased that H.R. 5682 passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming support, and it’s about time. The Keystone XL pipeline is the most scrutinized project in recent history; it’s become a political target.ÿ It’s a good thing we don’t build rail, highways, bridges or airports the way we are trying to build Keystone XL or we’d all be walking.ÿPipelines are like rail, roads, bridges, and airports, they tie our commerce together. America needs the KXL infrastructure to create a North American energy market and tie our energy markets together.ÿ We need the bill to pass both chambers, so that we can resolve this problem and focus on other important issues as we head into a new session of Congress.”

County mourns deputy’s death; suspect charged in fatal crash

HOUSTON, Texas – Tragically, Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Jesse Valdez III, 32, became the 40th HCSO employee to die in the line of duty in the 177-year history of the agency.

Valdez, a patrol deputy, died after a vehicle driven by Kelly Jo Ivey, 29, collided head-on with his patrol car the early morning of October 29, 2014.

Ivey was charged later the same day of the tragic accident with possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, as a result of the investigation into the crash. Her initial court appearance was scheduled for last Thursday, October 30, 2014. Further related charges may be filed later.

Ivey was released from Texas prison on Oct. 2 after serving part of a two-year sentence on a previous, unrelated methamphetamine case.

“We will never forget his service. We will never forget his sacrifice,” Sheriff Adrian Garcia said about Valdez early today at a news conference.

The Sheriff’s Office, whose five stated core values include “Develop, encourage and care for our Sheriff’s Office family,” is grieving.

In March, Ivey pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and agreed to the two-year sentence, according to court records. She was released from prison on parole this month, said the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Ivey served time behind bars in two earlier theft cases, according to court records. A judge has declined a bond for her.

The morning of Wednesday, Ocober 29, Valdez was travelling eastbound on East Wallisville Road near the intersection with Honeysuckle Street. A dark colored Ford Explorer SUV travelling westbound on East Wallisville Road, crossed into the eastbound lane of traffic striking the deputy’s marked patrol unit.

Valdez’s vehicle was spun counter clockwise into a roadside drainage ditch, as the Explorer spun into the center of the intersection.

EMS personnel were called to the scene where extraction tools were used to withdraw the deputy from his severely damaged vehicle.

The accident happened near the Highlands Fire Department’s Station #2 on Wallisville, and they were the first units on the scene. Later, Baytown EMS and Fire arrived to help rescue, and stand-by for the helicopter flight.

The deputy was transported via LifeFlight to Memorial Hermann Trauma Center, where he was pronounced deceased at approximately 1:00 a.m.

Ivey was transported by ground to the same hospital. A male, Casey William Byfield, passenger and apparently Ivey’s boyfriend, was cooperative with authorities after the accident. He was treated on scene and release. But he was arrested last Friday, October 31 at 12:30 a.m. in the 700 block of Bright Penny Lane. His charges are unkown.

Lone Star College bond referendum approved by voters

HOUSTON (Nov. 4, 2014) – Voters elected to approve the Lone Star College $485 million bond proposal. With 83 percent of the precincts reporting in Harris County and 100 percent of the precincts reporting in Montgomery County, the bond is passing by 161,200 to 86,844 votes.

“We are extremely grateful that voters saw the need and chose to support the important work Lone Star College is doing,” said Stephen Head, LSC chancellor.

“We are committed to providing affordable access to a quality education for all of our students,” said Head. “The voters agreed that the role Lone Star College plays in this community is vitally important to our continuing economic prosperity.

“With 25 percent of area high school students choosing to attend Lone Star College after graduation, we have an important responsibility to keep up with area growth, fill the critical need for trained workers and provide streamlined academic transfer programs for students to earn a bachelor’s degree,” said Head.

The bond funds will be used to create additional learning space and fund the construction of new Advanced Technology Centers throughout the college system to help fill the critical shortage of trained technical workers in the Houston area.

“Students rely on Lone Star College for a wide array of services and opportunities to improve their lives – associate degrees, certifications for work in high-demand industries, workforce skills upgrades to improve their career options, and credits that enable them to transfer to universities to complete bachelor’s degrees. In Texas, 78 percent of bachelor’s degrees are awarded to students that attended community college. The demand for these education and training pathways continues to grow,” Head said.

The LSC bond was heavily supported by local community and business organizations and local major health care organizations, many of whom have come to rely on LSC for a supply of trained students ready to enter the workforce.

In addition to approving the bond, voters in LSC District 9 elected Ken E. Lloyd to join the LSCS Board of Trustees in a three-way race that included Lamar Casparis and Dom Bongiorni. Alton Smith (District 3) and Art Murillo (District 4) were unopposed and will join Lloyd for six year terms beginning with the December 2014 board meeting.

“We look forward to having these new trustees join the Lone Star College System Board,” said Head. “Their decisions over the next six years will have a tremendous impact on the lives of LSC students and employees. I look forward to working with them.”

In all, the bond will assist LSC in planning for the future by adding 686,000 square feet of new instructional and support buildings, along with renovating 362,000 square feet of existing facilities. In addition, the funds will provide for increased campus parking, improved campus safety and security, and enhanced technology infrastructure.

MacArthur battles in Homecoming Game Aldine 23, MacArthur 21

THORNE STADIUM – In a classic struggle between two evenly matched teams, the MacArthur Generals under coach Andy Garza brought a sharp passing game to Thorne, while the Aldine Mustangs had their patented running game, under coach Lionell Crawford.

Each team had 11 first downs, the Generals had 273 passing yards, and the Mustangs had 167 rushing.

Mac QB Anthony Villareal was sharp on most of his 12 for 21 completions, totaling 271 yards. His favorite target was Ray Arriola, who totalled 5 catches for 160 yards.

Aldine’s leading rusher was QB Andrew Davis, with 22 runs for 55 yards and 3 TDs.

Scoring opens in the first quarter with a 38 yard pass from Arriola to J. Reece, and the Generals led. But each team scored in three of the four quarters, keeping the score close. Trailing 23-14 in the final 4 minutes, the Generals mounted a drive to come within 2 points, but stalled at 23-21.

Lone Star College presents Bond facts to East Aldine

As Election Day approaches on November 4th, representatives from the Lone Star College System have been meeting with the public and presenting information about the need for the LSCS to expand to meet the growth of the student population in all the Lone Star Colleges.

Tuesday’s bond proposal will provide $485 in financing to pay for projects at all the campuses, and in addition three new board members will be elected.

This information was detailed in a presentation that LSC Interim President Penny Westerfeld made to the Houston Intercontinental Chamber at a luncheon on Tuesday, and an evening meeting on Thursday for residents of the Aldine area at the East Aldine offices on Aldine Mail Route.

Emphasizing that due to increase in the tax assessment base over the last few years, no new taxes or tax increase would be required to pay for the bonds.

Projects that are included in the bond budget include new advanced technology centers, renovations to current workforce education facilities, and campus expansion projects at each location.

For the North Harris college, the funds will pay for a new instructional building of 60,000 sq. ft., an advanced technology workforce center of 50,000 sq. ft., expansion of Victory Center 25,000 sq. ft., renovations to existing facilities at the main campus and Greenspoint campus, and increased parking for 400 cars. In addition, Lone Star College North Harris is planning to build a new instructional/workforce building in East Aldine of 60,000 sq. ft. in the communities new Town Center on Aldine Mail Route, that would be paid for with funds other than the bonds, according to Chancellor Stephen Head.

Lone Star College System currently has 90,000 credit and non-credit students. Since 2007 the college has added 33,565 students, an increase of 68%, and this growth may continue.

Lone Star College serves an area of more than 1,400 square miles with a population of 2.1 million, including some of the fastest-growing communities in the state. In the past four years, the LSC service area has grown by 176,000 people, more people than 39 U.S. states added during the same time period. An additional 242,000 people are expected to increase the region’s population to 2.55 million by the year 2019.

The LSC tax rate of 10.81 cents/$100 valuation is lower than it was 15 years ago. And the Board of Trustees has lowered the tax rate 6 of the last 10 years. LSC maintains a tax freeze for residents 65+ years old, and/or the disabled which means the actual dollar amount of taxes owed will never increase, even if the property value increases.

The election will include a vote for new board members. Lone Star College System Trusteeds are elected by single member districts. Voters residing within a trustee district may vote in that trustee election. Current positions and candidates to be elected include:

District #3, Alton Smith unopposed.

District #4, Art Murillo unopposed.

District #9, Ken Lloyd, Lamar Casparis, Dom Bongiorni – one will be elected.

Tuesday is election day, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at your regular precinct location.