Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in March 2017

Westfield FD fires firemen for hazing

HOUSTON – Channel 2 KPRC has reported that one volunteer was suspended and five paid part-time firefighters with the Westfield Fire Department were fired last Monday after a video surfaced on Snapchat and showed a firefighter strapped to a backboard and being doused with water and covered with several condiments.

The video was sent to Channel 2 Investigates by a concerned viewer.

KPRC then showed the video to Westfield Fire Chief Stephen Whitehead, who said it appears the incident took place at the department’s main fire station on Lauder Road.

The video, which is nearly five minutes in length, shows the firefighter on the ground, tied to a backboard with several straps and periodically doused with bursts of water from the rear valve of a tanker truck. Other men are then seen pouring mustard, flour, popcorn butter, chocolate, yogurt and ice on the firefighter.

“Dude, you’re crying. You want to quit, just say it,” one firefighter is heard saying on the video.

After watching the video, Whitehead immediately opened an internal investigation into the men’s actions.

“It’s totally unacceptable,” Whitehead said.

He said while nothing on the video is tolerated, he was particularly concerned about the restraints.

“I mean, that’s dangerous, you could injure him,” said Whitehead. “I’ve never seen that degree of hazing before, or harassment, never.”

Even the men on the video seemed concerned about the incident getting out to the public.

“Hey, y’all, don’t be putting this (expletive) on social media,” one man is heard saying.

“I mean, we’re here to protect lives and property, not — especially your own, you know — not cause harm,” Whitehead said.

After the story aired, Chief Whitehead sent an email to KPRC reading that, “one volunteer was suspended indefinitely, and five part time firefighters were terminated.”

NORTH HOUSTON: Survey positions area for flood funds, projects

The District has a new study that will help in advocating for projects and funding to reduce flooding. Commissioned by the District and performed by Lockwood, Andrews & Newman, Inc. (LAN), the study provides the technical details needed to pinpoint specific projects and compete for federal funds.

“Texas will be receiving $222 million in funding to help with relief efforts and the District is meeting with elected officials and governmental agencies to ensure some of that money makes its way to our area for improvement projects,” said Robert Fiederlein, the District’s vice president of strategic planning and development.

LAN modeled the April 2016 floods using state-of-the-art technology to determine how the flooding occurred in the North Houston District and why. The study identifies the area’s close proximity to Greens Bayou and the capacity of current drainage infrastructure as key factors in the flooding experienced last year.

Potential improvement projects have been identified for the area as a result of the study including drainage improvements along West Hardy, Greens Road and Imperial Valley Drive. In addition, detention needed to support these projects may require the purchase of existing property in the floodway, which could open opportunities for more parks or green space in the area.

East Aldine community workshop

The East Aldine District and Neighborhood Centers held a community workshop last Thursday night, to advance the ideas and goals of the community for the new Town Center that is being planned on a 61 acre site on Aldine Mail Route.

Neighborhood Centers has changed their name, it was explained, to BakerRipley in recognition of its major supporters and its history.

About 75 people attended the meeting, and after presentations by NCI leaders Raul Macias and Jose Rivera, and East Aldine’s Richard Cantu, were divided into four groups to further develop the goals that they had defined at the last community meeting in July 2016.

These goals and their team leaders were:

1. Community Pride led by Maria Avila. This group promoted a community art, a celebration and a museum;

2. Nurturing families and empowering people, led by Coco Martinez. This group promoted voter registration and participation in elections and accountability for tax dollars;

3. Healthy LIving and Wellness, led by Bruce Young. This group promoted vegetable gardens and health clinics. It also promoted safety on the public streets, with cameras, speed limits, and better street lighting.

4. Bonds between Business and Community, led by Brooke Silva. This group promoted community development, and the establishment of a new Aldine Chamber of Commerce for small businesses. It presented details questions about businesses along Aldine-Westfield after it is widened.

Richard Cantu of East Aldine District presented an update on current plans for new road construction, and widening of existing roads.

Cantu said the following projects will start construction soon:

Aldine-Westfield, widening and rebuilding as a 4 lane divided road, from Little York to Aldine Mail;

Gulf Bank, from Hrdy to Aldine-Westfield;

Aldine Mail Route, widening west from Aldine-Westfield;

JFK, extending south to a new Gulf Bank in Keith-Wiess Park;

Lauder Road, widening to 4 lanes with a divider.

The community was asked to sign a petition and forward it to the Mayor Turner and Councilman Jerry Davis, asking them to prioritize the A-W construction and extending it to Beltway 8. Contact the East Aldine District if you would like to participate.

City pursues strategies for homeless, panhandlers

HOUSTON, TX. – March 2, 2017 – Mayor Sylvester Turner today announced a more holistic approach to reducing homelessness and invited the community to help implement it. The mayor’s plan involves expedited efforts to permanently house the homeless, more shelter beds, new public health and safety regulations and an anti-panhandling awareness campaign.

“Houston has achieved significant reductions in homelessness in recent years, but I am committed to doing even more,” said Mayor Turner. “It is simply not acceptable for people to live on the streets; it is not good for them, and it is not good for the city. We will tackle this complicated issue, and we will do it humanely with a meaningful approach that balances the needs of the homeless and the concerns of neighborhoods they impact. We will need everyone’s patience and help to make it work.”

At the center of the mayor’s plan is expansion of The Way Home, the coordinated housing initiative of 100 public and private organizations that has reduced overall homelessness by 57 percent over the last five years. Another 500 chronically homeless individuals will be placed in permanent supportive housing within six months. Coupled with this aggressive goal, the community, often with direct city support, is continuing to invest in new permanent supportive housing units, but more apartments are still needed. The mayor is calling upon apartment owners and landlords with vacant units to step forward and be part of the solution.

Another 215 shelter beds will come online in August when the new Star of Hope campus on Reed Road is finished. In addition, the city is pursuing creation of one or more secure and professionally managed covered outdoor spaces with restroom facilities where up to 75 individuals could stay temporarily.

“In this city, we are not going to abandon our most vulnerable,” said Turner. “The goal is to get as many people as possible into permanent housing or shelters, but even with all of the assistance being offered, there will still be people who choose to stay on the streets. It would be wrong to tell these people they cannot be here or there without providing a suitable alternative. I am inviting the community and City Council to help identify locations in their districts we can use as temporary outdoor shelters and for feeding the hungry.”

The city will continue weekly cleanups of encampments to address health and safety concerns while the homeless are transitioning to shelters and permanent supportive housing. The Houston Police Department Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) is expanding so there can be increased interaction and assistance for the homeless. Another component is a new ordinance outlawing tents on public property. This ordinance will prohibit people from putting up tents but will not make it illegal to sleep outdoors. There will be a 30-day transition period during which HPD’s HOT team will work to compassionately redirect people in encampments to housing alternatives.

“This is a best practice across the nation and is based on public health and safety concerns,” said Turner. “We cannot have people setting up tent cities where there are no restrooms or other accommodations to meet basic human needs. Not only is it unsanitary, but it also deters from the goal of getting people into permanent supportive housing.”

The Texas Department of Transportation is assisting by installing “no camping” signs at freeway underpasses and is working to allow the city to have access to the underpasses for parking and economic development, an idea Mayor Turner has wanted to pursue since seeing something similar during last year’s trade mission to Mexico City.

The mayor’s plan also takes aim at panhandling with a new ordinance prohibiting obstruction of roadways and an anti-panhandling media campaign involving TV, radio, print and social media ads, street signage, billboards and a way to donate to service organizations via text and online giving. The campaign, which is being funded by 15 management districts, urges residents to help bring about “meaningful change” by donating their “spare change” directly to organizations that provide services. The public awareness campaign will be coupled with a pilot program to connect panhandlers to employment opportunities. The signs and ads are expected to be up and running within a month.

The mayor noted that a lot of homeless have mental health issues and have repeatedly fallen through the cracks of the social service system. He stressed the importance of increased funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs and said that he had directed this issue to be added to the city’s legislative priorities in Austin.

“Our existing programs and the expanded ones I have outlined lead all major cities in dealing with a nationwide problem,” said Turner. “This is a realistic, holistic approach that provides meaningful solutions. By offering multiple choices and a little bit of tough love, we hope to convince more of our street population to get off the streets. This plan also provides strategies for easing the pressure in neighborhoods. We will never totally eliminate homelessness, but with the entire community’s help, we can reduce it even more.”

Six years ago, Houston had a homeless population of more than 8,500. Today, that number has dropped to around 3,600. Less than one-third of these people are living on the streets. The rest take advantage of shelter beds.