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Posts published in November 2015

Mayoral debate held in Northeast Houston

NORTHEAST – State Representative Senfronia Thompson, District 141, hosted a Mayoral Debate last Tuesday evening, at the auditorium of the Forest Brook Middle School on Tidwell Road.

Hundreds turned out in the audience, to hear what these potential mayor candidates had to say about programs for the city, and especially in their areas.

The debate lasted for two and one-half hours, which was streamed live on Fox26 website, and excerpted in small clips on Channel 26 broadcast newscasts.

Opening and closing remarks were made by Rep. Thompson, and HISD schoolboard president Rhonda Skillern Jones, and Dr. Sylvia Brooks Williams.

Moderator Damali Keith asked most of the questions, with one question each from the panel, on specific topics of the city budget, economic development and creation of job opportunities, city infrastructure, road repair, flooding conditions, public safety and number of officers, public transit, and environmental factors including air and water quality.

Represented in the audience were neighborhood organizations, political organizations, education partners, precinct chairs, and media partners, including the Northeast News and three other newspapers.

Answers to most questions were brief, and the atmosphere between the two principals was cordial. The biggest disagreement seemed to be over the management of the infrastructure departments, and whether each candidate would continue the so-called ReBuild Houston program, which pays for street and sewer repairs through a fee on utility bills. King would modify the terms, and pay for it with new bonds, and Turner would continue the program as it exists, with some improvements.

The argument was mainly whether issuing bonds was the best way to finance future city infrastructure work, with King saying Yes, Turner No.

Another major topic was the pension funds owed to retiring police and firement, and whether the program should be modified to reduce future debt. King said yes, Turner said we can’t change our obligation to these public service employees.

Turner emphasized that the city should be working with education to improve opportunies and eliminate inequalities, but King said that there was only a limited amount that a city could do since the school districts, 16 of them in the city boundaries, are separate planning and taxing entities.

King said on the city budget that his first effort would be to reduce expenditures, and make the operations more efficient. He want to retain the cap on city property taxes at 4.5%, saying that the problem is not an income problem, but an expenditure problem.

Turner, on the other hand, indicated that with the growth of population and obligations to pension funds and other needs, the cap was an artificial restraint that was hampering the city from delivering needed services. He favors amending the cap, to allow additional monies for more police and to reduce debt.

Questioned by the Northeast News about economic development initiatives, especially in minority neighborhoods such as Acres Homes and North Forest, King indicated that single family housing was the biggest need, and would drive further development of businesses, stores, and schools. He said the city had amassed about 2000 empty lots that could be converted into a program for new housing with subsidies. However, he favored a program that would treat all of the city equally, not just some neighborhoods.

Turner agreed, saying he would have a program where city subsidies would be available for single family housing. No other initiative were offered by either candidate.

On public safety, King believes more officers could be put on the street with efficiencies in the department, while Turner favors additional hires of 540 new officers, paid for by additional taxes.

Turner suggested that the city could recover more money for their budget by requiring TIRZ districts to share in public improvements and other normal city expenses.

Each candidate had a slogan for their campaigns and programs. King said he is in favor of “Back2Basics” and back to doing great things again. Turner said “If you can Dream It, you can achieve it,” a reference to his own career from Acres Homes to Harvard. He wants to see the diversity of Houston coalesce into a cooperative electorate. In his recent ads, he characterizes King as “too extreme for Houston.”

The run-off election is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12th from 7am to 7pm. Before that, early voting is from Dec. 2-Dec. 8.

Optimist club hears about HOBY students

The Noon Aldine Optimists Club sponsors students every year, to attend the Youth Leadership conference of the South Texas regional Optimists clubs.

This year the event was held in Galveston, and at the regular luncheon of the club, reports from four students were presented to the club.

The meeting was held at the offices of the East Aldine District instead of their regular location at their clubhouse.

Students making the presentations were Taylor Barnes from Davis High School; Miriam Ruiz from MacArthur High; Lissette Carrera from Victory High; and Kendyll Smith from Nimitz High School.

Also present at the luncheon were the counselors for these students, and the District Governor Elect for the South District of the Optimist Internation organization, Carol Hodges.

Each student reported on their experiences at the HOBY, or Hugh O’Brian Youth leadership conference. Also enrolled as a new member at the meeting was Joyce Wiley, and two who were not present, Sidney Brewer and Armando Walle.

Club president Steve Mead reported that the club was preparing to award students who completed the reading program in each of the 34 elementary schools, with a new bicycle as a gift for their efforts. 68 bicycles will be presented, one to each boy and girl per school.

Close vote for Aldine Board draws recount

The value of a single vote was clearly demonstrated this week, as candidate for Aldine Trustee Position 1, Tony Diaz, lost to the incumbent, Patricia Bourgeois, by a margin of only 5 votes out of 11,637 cast. Diaz received 5816, and Bourgeois received 5821. However, another 3748 voters did not choose either candidate. Diaz indicated to the Northeast News that he will request a recount, after the ballots are canvassed this week, and are official.

Voters pass Props & Aldine bond; HERO dead, mayor in runoff

HARRIS COUNTY – Local voters showed support for their elected officials and passed every proposition in the state, county, last Tuesday, November 3.

Aldine voters approved a $798 million bond proposal for the construction of new schools, renovations, enhancements and other projects to meet the growth needs of the school district over the next five years.

In Harris County, all seven Propositions passed. Proposition 1 for road improvements at about $700 M. passed by 73% to 27%.

Proposition 2 about funding improvements to parks passed 64% to 36%.

Proposition #3 for an improved animal shelter passed 62% to 38%, the lowest of all county percentages.

Proposition 4 for flood control work passed 74% to 26% So the county can spend $64 M. to drain the areas.

One Proposition that did not pass was the City of Houston, Proposition 1, the HERO proposition was voted down 39% to 61% on election day.

For Mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner had 32% and Bill King had 25% while Adrian Garcia had 15%. Turner and King will face each other again in a run-off election in December.

According to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, “Texans have spoken loud and clear by voting all seven propositions into law today from property tax relief to transportation.

“Rest assured, today’s vote on property tax relief is only the first step in providing property owners real tax relief. I wanted a huge margin victory to give us the clout to do more property tax relief next session. I think today’s win should end the opposition by some who opposed reducing property taxes last session.

“Texans have also spoken to significantly improving transportation funding for Texas’ roads and highways. Government transparency will be increased as well as veteran benefits and our right to hunt and fish will be placed in our constitution. These are all steps in the right direction. However, we’re still not done.

“All seven constitutional amendments are important and affect us all. Thanks to everyone who voted today: as a result, Texas is a better place.”

Many initiatives were predicated upon property taxes and keeping them low. The county tax rate remains the same but as the county population grows the demand is higher so the evaluations will grow as properties sell for higher amounts. The valuations will also grow so by that factor taxes may also grow. Nobody talked about that.

Aldine voters overwhelmingly approve $798 million bond referendum

Aldine ISD officials said 9,640 voted for the proposal and 3,663 voted against it. The referendum passed by a 72% margin.

“We are delighted with these results and want to thank the Aldine community for its support in passing the bond referendum in such an overwhelming fashion,” said Aldine ISD Superintendent Dr. Wanda Bamberg. “I am excited and grateful for the community’s support as we plan for the future in Aldine. I also want to thank the Steering Committee members who helped us plan for the bond and provided input during the planning process.”

The bond referendum will provide funding for major renovations at some campuses including Carver High School, Aldine High School, Anderson Academy and MacArthur High School.

The referendum will also provide technology upgrades throughout the district and the installation of WiFi at all Aldine campuses to improve Internet access.

The bond referendum will also address safety and security with security camera additions and upgrades at all facilities, the installation of GPS on all buses, the installation of automated door lock systems and additional fencing.

Other improvements include the renovation of Smith Stadium, the renovation of middle school auditoriums, swimming pool upgrades, the construction of a north side transportation facility, parking lot expansions, and land purchases.

The district will sell bonds as needed for the construction of new schools, renovations, purchases, replacements and improvements that are outlined in the proposal.

The bond referendum should have a minimal impact on taxpayers because voters in Texas approved Proposition 1 in the November election.

Proposition 1 changes the homestead exemption amount for school property taxes from $15,000 to $25,000, which means a house valued at $100,000 in Aldine would be taxed at $75,000 in the future.

Four incumbents returned to AISD Board positions

Voters in Aldine ISD returned four incumbents to their respective seats on the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, November 3.

Patricia Ann Bourgeois returned to the Position 1 seat, Paul Shanklin returned to the Position 2 seat, Merlin Griggs returned to the Position 6 seat and Dr. Viola M. Garcia returned to the Position 7 seat. Griggs and Dr. Garcia ran unopposed for their respective seat.

Bourgeois defeated Tony Diaz for the Position 2 seat. She received 5,818 votes to Diaz’s 5,813 votes.

Shanklin defeated Carleen “Jinx” Kerr in the Position 2 race. Shanklin received 6,937 votes to Kerr’s 3,451 votes.

Rainfall, Tornadoes inundate area

NORTHEAST – The Houston area was hit by heavy rainstorms Saturday, with as much as 10 inches falling in just a few hours, in the North and East sections of the county.

In addition the National Weather Service reported six tornadoes, bringing down trees and power lines. The tornadoes went from Freeport to Barrett Station. Up to 47,000 homes were reported without power by Centerpoint on Saturday. The Red Cross set up a shelter on the East Side. Frontage roads on the North Freeway, Eastex, and East Freeways were closed by authorities due to high water and inadequate drainage. Two deaths were reported.