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Posts published in April 2021

FEDS TELL TXDOT TO HALT I-45 EXPANSION

Cite Civil Rights concerns, Seek further Study

HOUSTON – The Federal Highway Administration is invoking the Civil Rights Act to pause a highway project near Houston, a rare move that offers an early test of the administration’s willingness to wield federal power to address a long history of government-driven racial inequities.

The FHWA’s intervention follows complaints from local activists that the state’s proposed widening of Interstate 45 would displace an overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic community, including schools, places of worship and more than 1,000 homes and businesses.

It also comes as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has identified racial equity as a major priority for his department — after decades in which federal highway money has paid for projects that leveled minority and low-income communities.

“I think this project is the poster child for [the administration’s] policies,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat representing the Houston area, who has joined local officials in challenging the project.

In a March 8 letter to the state, the Federal Highway Administration, citing complaints from local activists and Jackson Lee, requested that the Texas Department of Transportation hold off on its expansion of I-45, including initiating more contract solicitations, until the federal DOT has time to review civil rights and environmental justice concerns.

Federal officials could ultimately allow the project to proceed, but the action to freeze it at all, and in particular DOT’s use of civil rights laws to underpin that decision, has buoyed activists on the ground and surprised even seasoned regulators in Washington.

COVID-19 Vaccinations now available “OnDemand,” no wait list

Harris County Launches On Demand COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment System; 55,000 COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments Now Available for the Week of April 19

Harris County Public Health Transitions from Waitlist System to Offering Residents Appointment Options Immediately Upon Signing Up; Unvaccinated Residents Strongly Encouraged To Sign Up Now at ReadyHarris.org

Harris County, Texas – Friday, April 16, 2021, Harris County Public Health (HCPH) today announced that it has opened 55,000 COVID-19 vaccines for the week of April 19th. In response to vaccine supply starting to meet demand, residents who sign up for a vaccine from HCPH will now be given appointment options immediately after registering for a vaccine while supplies last. Individuals will be provided with a choice of date, time, and location to get vaccinated upon registering online at ReadyHarris.org or via phone with the HCPH Vaccine Hotline.

To register, residents should visit ReadyHarris.org, vacstrac.hctx.net or call the HCPH Vaccine hotline at 832-927-8787 for assistance. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) also directed vaccine providers to prioritize people 80 years and older when scheduling appointments and accommodate anyone in that age group who presents for vaccination, whether or not they have an appointment.

The new registration system will continue to support Harris County’s commitment to providing vaccines efficiently, fairly and equitably by lowering barriers to registration and providing information in multiple languages online and via phone. The county will also continue to prioritize vaccines for vulnerable communities by offering vaccines at mobile sites in hard-hit zip codes, conducting targeted outreach, offering transportation for those who cannot drive to an appointment on their own, and partnering with community organizations to support vaccine distribution.

Aldine Trustee Viola Garcia new president of National School Boards Association

DR. VIOLA GARCIA

Aldine ISD Trustee Dr. Viola M. Garcia assumed the office of President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) on Saturday, April 10, during NSBA’s Annual Conference via a virtual ceremony.

Dr. Garcia is the longest tenured Aldine Trustee, having served on the Board since her appointment to the Position 7 seat in 1992 and her election in January 1993. She has held all four board offices and has chaired numerous committees.

Dr. Garcia previously served as NSBA’s Secretary-Treasurer, PresidentElect and on the NSBA Board of Directors representing the Southern Region, before becoming the organization’s President.

Dr. Garcia said she is looking forward to serving as the head of a body that does so much good work for children.

“I ask for guidance for this gathering of school board members, administrators, staff, service providers and partners,” she said in her remarks after her swearing in ceremony. “I think you for the good work you are doing and how well your students are doing, what you have accomplished this academic year, and how we are all working together to serve the students of this great nation.

County Judge visits Mobile Vaccine Unit at Greater Pure Light Church in Aldine

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo visits the Mobile Vaccine unit with Pastor Darryl Broussard at Greater Pure Light Church. MORE PHOTOS on Page 3.

EAST ALDINE – Judge Lina Hidalgo visited a mobile vaccine unit operating at the Greater Pure Light Church last Wednesday morning, and give media an update on the county’s efforts to vaccinate all residents, especially vulnerable and hesitant communities.

Hidalgo said that Mobile vaccine units are a key part of the county’s outreach plan, serving individuals who may not have transportation to a clinic, are hesitant to travel far from their homes or have limited access to current technology.

Judge Hidalgo visited the room where the vaccinations were being administered, accompanied by the church’s Pastor Darryl Broussard. The pastor said that the vaccinations were part of their efforts of caring for the community and protecting the well-being of all Aldine residents.

Local Leaders oppose SB7 bill as Voter Suppression

HOUSTON – Amid a national outcry against proposed restrictive voting bills in many Republican controlled states, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo hosted a press conference Monday to voice their opposition to Texas House Bill 6 and Texas Senate Bill 7.

“These bills are going through on our watch,” said Turner. “What’s happening in the state of Texas, in the legislature, is wrong.”

“Soon enough, we will have taken the largest step back since Jim Crow,” said Hidalgo. “The dominoes of basic voting rights are starting to fall.”

Lt Governor Dan Parick also held a news conference in Austin this week, angrily defending the bills and accusing opponents of lying about whether they restricted or limited voting, and especially minority voters.

Among other items, Texas HB 6 would prohibit government officials from sending mail-in ballot applications to voters. In addition, it would require anyone providing help to a disabled voter at the polls to show an ID and share why they’re helping the disabled individual.

Texas SB 7 would require people to have legitimate reasons to vote by mail, get rid of drive-thru voting, and allow poll watchers to record video.

East Aldine Families enjoy a “Drive-Thru” Easter Event at BakerRipley last Saturday

Families enjoyed meeting the Easter Bunny, and having their picture taken with the Bunny. They also received a gift basket for each child. MORE PHOTOS, Page 3.

EAST ALDINE – The BakerRipley campus in the new Town Center was the site last Saturday morning for a festive Easter Celebration for kids and their families.

Balloons, plastic eggs with surprises inside, gift baskets for each child, and a visit with the Easter Bunny were the highlights of the event. The gift baskets included activities for each child to play with.

The event was billed as an “Eggstravaganza” and was a drive-thru type event on the driveway of the BakerRipley campus. Due to the safety concerns of the pandemic, families were given an appointment time, so that not too many were present at any one time. Masks and social distancing were safety precautions, that made the event family friendly and safe.

Lone Star’s East Aldine campus tops 1000 students

Entrance to the new Lone Star College East Aldine Center

ALDINE (April 1, 2021) – In September, when Gloria Villa registered for her classes at Lone Star College-East Aldine Center, no balloons or confetti fell, but she set a milestone for the satellite center by becoming its 1,000th student enrolled.

Opened during the fall 2019 semester, it took just four semesters for LSC-East Aldine Center to surpass triple-digits for students enrolled.

The center, much like the main campus at LSC-North Harris, is home to a variety of students such as high schoolers, workforce, and in Gloria’s case, transfer students.

“I see LSC-East Aldine Center helping me achieve my goals by showing me the college experience, and all the help I receive from here will always benefit me in the long run,” Villa said. “The college offers so much help through the tutors and advisors to help me along the way.”

Garcia’s motion will bring $3 million to fight violent crime

HARRIS COUNTY – By a vote of 5-0, Harris County Commissioners Court approved an item presented by Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia which adds $3 million to the Sheriff Department’s budget to fight specific aspects of violent crime. Remaining Federal CARES Act money is being used to fund this initiative. The funds will be used to protect victims and reduce violent crime, stemming from the pandemic.

The additional $3 million will be restricted to the following areas of investigation:

Murder
Sexual Assault
Aggravated Robbery
Child Abuse
Domestic Violence
Warrants

“While others’ rhetoric on crime usually focuses on making political statements solely to sell fear, I’d rather my office concentrate on action. All too often, the loudest voices you hear on TV would prefer to see themselves acting tough on the 10 o’clock news, rather than do the hard work that actually might make a difference,” said Commissioner Adrian Garcia. “I choose to invest in programs that will actually keep people safe and hold evil-doers accountable. This is a smart use of these funds and even though the full extent of this plan can’t be captured with three words on a posterboard, I’m glad to have sponsored the item.”

AOC helps distribute water in East Aldine

Brings $5 million in Freeze Relief

After the Deep Freeze and subsequent Power and Water outages of early February, many individuals and organizations contributed to help those needing water, food and heat. In East Aldine, on February 20, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) joined with State Representative Armando Walle, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, State Senator Carol Alvarado, BakerRipley CEO Claudia Aguirre, and many others to distribute water to local residents that were unable to get water in their homes or stores. In addition, AOC raised $5 million to help in the Relief effort.

THE POSTSCRIPT: Out Like a Lion

By Carrie Classon

March is winding down and my sister-in-law, Lori, is going with it.

There is too much food and too many flowers because that is what we do when someone is dying, when we don’t know what else to do as, gradually, the unthinkable becomes accepted and even ordinary. We make more food and bring more flowers. But there is too little time. There is always too little time.

Lori is spending most of the time she has left sleeping, which means she is not in pain but also that no one can talk with her and we miss her already, while she is here among us.

There are circles of grief, as I’ve heard it explained. Her husband, Robert, is at the center, and one ring out are her children and my husband, her brother. I am a bit further out in orbit, in Lori’s solar system of sorrow, missing her ready laugh and irreverent observations.