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Northeast News

Houston small businesses receive federal funding for drug-free workplace policies

This fall, many Houston small businesses will receive the aid necessary to help detect, counsel and treat employees with alcohol and drug addictions. With 77 percent of illicit drug users employed, abuse in the workplace is an issue for all organizations; however, small businesses historically lack the resources to address and resolve the problem.

Drug Free Business Houston, an organization committed to reducing drug use in the workplace, recently received a $170,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Drug Free Business Houston, one of 21 small business development centers and other private organizations from across the country that received a grant from the SBA, will use the grant to provide financial and technical assistance to small businesses seeking to prepare and implement drug-free workplace policies.

”Drug Free Business Houston is in the business of reaching people,” said Becky Vance, director of corporate affairs, The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston. “With this funding, we will be able to extend our assistance to Houston’s small businesses and help them reduce and eliminate drug-and-alcohol related problems in the workplace, such as workplace accidents, absenteeism, stolen inventory and lost productivity.”

Drug Free Business Houston fears that normal life pressures, which can often lead to the abuse of drugs and alcohol, could now be increased by circumstances resulting from recent world events. With the grant, Drug Free Business Houston will address these issues and assist 200 local small- and medium-sized businesses in implementing drug-free workplace programs during this time of increased need. In addition, the funding will go toward the development and implementation of employee drug and alcohol abuse training programs, workplace drug testing programs and employee assistance programs.

Houston-area small businesses with fewer than 500 employees that no not have all the elements of a formal drug free workplace program in place, can contact Drug Free Business Houston at 1-888-655-3328 and apply for aid. Small businesses will be accepted in to the Drug Free Business Houston program on a first come, first serve basis.

Drug Free Business Houston has successfully served the Houston business community since 1985. With this additional funding,

Drug Free Business Houston will be able to help reduce the amount of drug abuse in the workplace and increase awareness regarding abuse prevention.
Both, Drug Free Business Houston and Drug Free Business Texas, are subsidiaries of The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, an organization that provides drug awareness and prevention services to the Houston and surrounding communities. Drug Free Business Texas is an organization focused on facilitating the development of comprehensive and supportive drug-free workplace programs throughout Texas. Since 1985, Drug Free Business Houston has helped thousands of companies and organizations, small and large, public and private, create and implement voluntary drug-free workplace programs.

Drug Free Business Houston is a subsidiary of The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston and a member of Drug Free Business Texas, created in 2000 to support workplace programs throughout the state and provide assistance to statewide non-profit organizations in their own communities. For more information on Drug Free Business Houston, visit its web site at, .

Drug Free Business Texas was formed in 2000 to provide technical assistance and guidance to statewide non-profit organizations in their own communities. For more information on Drug Free Business Texas, visit its web site at, .

The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston is a nonprofit agency that serves over 200,000 people each year. The mission of The Council is to keep our community healthy, productive and safe by providing services and information to all who may be adversely affected by alcohol and drugs. For more information on The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston or The Council’s programs, services, volunteer opportunities, and special events, please visit its web site at www.council-houston.org .

Key games abound as NFL teams head for the stretch

If you are a NFL fan, this should be a week worth watching t throughout the league as a number of key games with playoff implications dot the schedule. Big games abound from coast to coast as teams begin making their final push for the playoffs as the conclusion of the regular season nears.

Before we take a look at the key games t his Saturday and Sunday, let’s review last week’s results. A 7-3 week brought the season record to a very respectable 98-39 (71 percent) and with three weeks still to go, I’m planning on improving on those numbers.

Miami at San Francisco: This should be a good game from a standpoint of contrasting styles.
The Dolphins like to let their defense set the tone, while the 49ers like to throw the ball all over the field and put up gaudy numbers. Miami has shown a penchant for making comebacks this year as evidenced by their 21 – 10 win over Denver two weeks ago. The Fish trailed 10-0 entering the fourth quarter, but scored 21 points in a little over four minutes to pull out yet another victory when defeat appeared imminent. San Francisco has been one of the surprise teams of the year and all they do is get better each week. Two weeks ago their defense pitched a shutout over the hapless Bills as the offense produced 35 points thanks to the running of Garrison Hearst and the pinpoint passing of Jeff Garcia. Look for the 49ers to establish Hearst again this week as they try to wear down the hard charging Dolphins defense. But don’t expect the Dolphins to go quietly. They are locked in a tight battle in the AFC East and each game is key down the stretch. My pick, San Francisco 26, Miami 20

Arizona at NY Giants: One of the NFL’s Saturday specials features the surprising Cardinals against the slumping Giants. Arizona received a huge confidence boost two weeks ago when they won at Oaldand, 34-31, in overtime. They aren’t scared to play on the road, but New York has not been kind to them over the years. The Giants know they need every win down the stretch to snag a Wild Card berth, but with an offense that is predictable and turnover prone, don’t be surprised if the Cards pull off another stunning road win this week. If Jake Plummer and David Boston are on as they have been most of the season, the New York secondary is going to be in for a long day. Look for the Cardinals to bottle up New York’s running game, which will force Kerry Collins to become the focal point of the offense. That’s not good news for Giants fans. My pick, Arizona 23, NY Giants 17

Philadelphia at Washington: Another key NFC East game as the Eagles take a one-game division lead into the nation’s capitol to take on a Washington team which soundly defeated them 13-3 on Nov. 25. A win by the Eagles would give them a decent cushion heading down the stretch and considering that probably only one team from the NEC East is going to make the playoffs, this game is huge for the Eagles. Philly has not lost a road game this year, so they won’t be intimidated by the ‘Skins’ home crowd and it appears Philly QB Donovan McNabb is starting to get hot. Washington will need to get running back Stephen Davis going against a tough Eagle defense if they hope to win this one because quarterback Tony Banks can’t be counted on in big games. If you saw his performance against the Cowboys (a 20-14 Dallas win!) two weeks ago, you know what I’m talking about. My pick, Philadelphia 16, Washington 10

Dallas at Seattle: The Cowboys made their season two weeks ago by upsetting the Redksins. Quincy Carter actually threw a decent looking pass and Emmitt Smith looked like the Emmit of old rushing for 102 yards and his first touchdown of the season. This week the Pokes travel to Seattle, where the weather is usually nasty this time of year. That does not bode well for the Cowboys. Look for the Seahawks, who are alive in the AEC playoff hunt, to give the ball to second-year back Shaun Alexander a lot this Sunday as they wear down the Dallas front seven as well as to take pressure off quarterback Matt Hasselback. Dallas does not play well against teams it faces every blue moon, so don’t be surprised if this one turns into a route. My pick, Seattle 30, Dallas 13

Jacksonville at Cleveland: The Browns came crashing down to earth two weeks ago when the Titans marched into town and left with a 31-15 victory. If the Browns don’t watch out, the same could happen this Sunday when the Jaguars come calling. Jacksonville has allowed leads to slip away late in four of their last five games and they are ready to take their frustrations out on somebody. Who better than a team that is entertaining thoughts of making the playoffs.
Quarterback Mark Brunell looked decent in the Jags’ 28-21 loss to the Packers two weeks ago and if he’s on, the Jags must might pull this one out, but then again, they will be facing a Cleveland team that is in a must win situation. It will be interesting to see how quarterback Tim Couch reacts. My pick, Cleveland 20, Jacksonville 17

Tampa Bay at Chicago: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are suddenly back in the playoff hunt and a win against the Bears, who are at the top of the NFC Central would go a long way towards putting them squarely in the Wild Card hunt in the NFC. The Bucs escaped Cincinnati with an overtime win two weeks ago after their emotional win at St. Louis the week before. Quarterback Brad Johnson appears to be playing his best football and with Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn providing an inside and outside run presence, the Bucs are a team to watch. But the Bears have been tough all year, especially at home. They have had the uncanny ability to come up with the key play when they’ve needed it the most. This one will be a big test to see how far the Bears have really come this year. You can bet their fans will be juiced for this one and playing in Chicago in December is a lot different than playing in the warm confines of Florida. Remember, the Bucs are not a team that performs well in cold weather. My pick, Chicago 17, Tampa Bay 12

Minnesota at Detroit: This could be the Lions’ best shot (until their season finale against Dallas) to pick up their first win of the season. Minnesota has proven it can lose to anybody (Carolina) anywhere (zero road wins). The Vikings are out of the playoff hunt and quarterback Daunte Cullpepper has an ailing knee. It’s that time of the year for evaluating young players, so this is a very winnable game for the Lions. Detroit will start Mike McMahon at quarterback, a talented youngster who is mobile. You can bet he wants to impress the Detroit brass down the stretch so that the job is his next year. This could turn into a high scoring affair as Randy Moss has picked things up in recent weeks and looks like the All-Pro he is. Expect McMahon to attack a weak Vikings defense as the Lions (you read it here first) pick up their first victory of the season. My pick, Detroit 35, Minnesota 34

Green Bay at Tennessee: This is a game the Packers cannot take lightly. Tennessee has played better in recent weeks and quarterback Steve McNair has looked sharp throwing the football. Even though Eddie George has had a sub par season, the Titans can still be a dangerous team, just ask the Browns. GB quarterback Brett Favre has to be licking his chops in anticipation of facing a depleted Tennessee secondary and with Ahman Green in tow, the Packers also have a strong running game to turn to should Favre falter. Don’t expect the Packers to have a let down in this one, even though they are coming off an emotional game against the Bears. They have enough veterans who know how to win at this time of the season. My pick, Green Bay 31, Tennessee 23

Pittsburgh at Baltimore: What a thriller this one should be on Sunday night on ESPN. All that’s at stake is first place in the AFC Central. This will be a defensive dominated football game. Neither team wants to let its offense make mistakes that could cost it the victory, so expect both teams to run the football a lot to loosen up the defenses so the passing game will be there when it’s needed. A key in this one will be the health of Steeler running back Jerome Bettis. He has been nursing a sore groin and bad hip and if is not able to go, the Ravens will get a huge break. Baltimore has been tough to beat at home and with a charged up crowd, expect the defense to be at the top of its game. My pick, Baltimore 17, Pittsburgh 13

St. Louis at New Orleans: Another great matchup as the Rams and Saints meet for the final time this year under the lights of Monday Night Football. The Saints overcame a huge deficit at St. Louis earlier this year and have won three of the last four meetings between the two teams. Look for quarterback Aaron Brooks to attack the Rams’ secondary, while St. Louis QB Kurt Warner will call on the multi-talented Marshall Faulk to carry the load for the Rams. Faulk is a threat running and receiving and when he’s on, the Rams are out of this world on offense. This should be another thriller. The Saints know they can come back against the Rams, so no lead is safe. This would be a good time for the St. Louis defense to put forth its best effort, because you know the Saints defense will be breathing fire and bringing pressure all night long. My pick, New Orleans 33, St. Louis 31

Councilmember Galloway holds her 2nd annual toy and gift drive

Second term Houston Council Member Carol Mims Galloway will hold her 2001 Holiday Toy Drive now through December 18th.

This year Galloway’s goal is to provide toys and gifts to the underprivileged children who reside at the federally supported housing projects in the district she represents.

Companies, corporations, non-profits, faith-based organizations, governmental entities and capable individuals of the Houston/Harris County region are encouraged to give toys and or gifts in the spirit of the season during this annual drive.

Interested parties may drop off donations at three conveniently located sites:

Pilgrim Cleaners, 2503 Bagby (drive through),
City Hall Annex, 900 Bagby (1st floor),
Northline Park Store Front, 392 W. Little York.

Wild weekend featured at Jesse Jones Park

There are many people with an interest in the diversity of birds and other wildlife found in our area. If you share this interest, then there is sure to be something to whet your appetite for knowledge at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center this weekend, as the park hosts a Winter Bird Count and a Bird Banding program Saturday, December 15 at 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., respectively, as well as several Pontoon Boat Tours throughout the day. And Sunday, December 16 at 2 p.m. a fun-filled Critters’ Christmas program promises to help you look out for the animals during the holidays.

The cool winter months are often the best time of year to observe a wide variety of birds, as many species of migratory birds spend the winter in our area. Join members of the Piney Woods Wildlife Society Saturday, December 15 at 7:30 a.m. as they conduct an informal count of wintering and resident birds found in Jones Park. This program is geared towards serious birders and learners ages 15 and above. Reservations are required.

Saturday at 9 a.m., join avian biologist Edwin Juarez of Harris County Mosquito Control for Bird Banding. Mr. Juarez captures resident and wintering birds in mist nets and gently attaches coded bands to their legs. Visitors ages seven and older can also learn how banding helps biologists in the study of bird migration, populations and conservation.

For those wanting a unique opportunity to view the native wildlife found along Spring Creek, Jones Park offers Pontoon Boat Tours throughout the day Saturday. Previous participants have seen such interesting animals as the elusive osprey and American alligators.

Reservations are required. Please call the park for additional details.

Although native wildlife is generally abundant during the warmer months, these creatures are often scarcely seen in the winter.

This is often because residents discontinue filling their backyard bird feeders or feeding stations, causing the animals to seek food elsewhere. This can be remedied, though, with a little holiday flair as well. Have you ever thought of decorating a tree outside just for the critters? Sunday, December 16 at 2 p.m., come join Jones Park staff members for Critters’ Christmas. Participants learn how to make decorative edible treats for the birds and other wildlife that visityour yard.

Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, a Harris County Precinct 4 facility, is located at 20634 Kenswick Drive in Humble. All programs are free of charge and open to the public.

Harris County Precinct 4 programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, national origin or disability.

For more information on the park or any of its progams, call 281-446-8588.

Coming in March!

A new, larger, better (how could that possibly be!) My Dee Dee’s Pie Shoppe & Deli at 301 West Gulf Bank ! My Dee Dee’s will be open throughout the remodeling baking up goodies for your holiday get togethers..as usual!

Former superintendent to be honored

Former Aldine ISD Superintendent M.B. “Sonny” Donaldson has been nominated for an honorary life membership in the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA).

Donaldson will receive his life membership during the TASA’s 2002 Midwinter Conference, set for Jan. 28 in Austin. Donaldson will be joined by other recipients who will be presented at the opening session of the conference.

Donaldson served as Aldine ISD’s superintendent for 15 years, from 1986 until his retirement in June of 2001. He spent his entire 34 years in education in AISD, serving as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal, director of athletics and assistant superintendent of administration before his appointment as superintendent of schools in 1986.

Johnny Veselka, TASA’s executive director, said Donaldson was most deserving of the life membership because of his years of service to Aldine ISD.

“Congratulations on your exemplary career and your commitment to public education,” Veselka said.

During his tenure, Donaldson led Aldine ISD to five consecutive Recognized ratings from the Texas Education Agency, the establishment of intermediate campuses for fifth and sixth graders, ninth grade schools at the district’s four traditional high schools, and the restructuring of the district in 1994 when area superintendents were added to the administrative team. Donaldson also garnered a number of individual honors during his 14-year tenure as superintendent.

He was named Administrator of the Year by the Texas Educational Secretaries Association, Superintendent of the Year for Region IV in 1994 and 1995, a finalist for Texas Superintendent of the Year in 1994 and 1995 and in 1998 he was named Educator of the Month by Texas School Business magazine.

Green: Expanding Fast Track poses threats to our food safety

This week, the House will consider H.R. 3005, the Thomas Fast Track Proposal. U.S. Reps. Gene Green (D-TX), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and consumer advocates held a press conference to outline the effects of Fast Track negotiating authority on the nation’s food supply.

Members and advocates joined to voice concern over the provisions of this legislation and how it fails to address food safety problems caused by the growth of the international food trade.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for inspecting approximately 80% of the food supply imported to the U.S. Yet FDA has only 750 inspectors, and $260 million, to scrutinize almost 60,000 food plants and to inspect an estimated 4.5 million imported food items each year. In 1992, FDA was able to physically inspect about 8 percent of all imported food, but last year (2000), FDA inspected less than 1/2 of 1% of all imported food.

“The U.S. entrance into NAFTA in 1994 placed a huge strain on the nation’s food inspection resources,” Green said. “With dwindling budgets and growing responsibilities, the FDA’s inspectors don’t have the resources to inspect the majority of food crossing the border. Extending the free trade authority to other countries poses a serious health threat for American consumers.”

“In the aftermath of terrorist attacks, Americans are calling on their government to protect them and provide better security,”Green added. “Extending our trade agreements could only place a greater burden our personnel and stretch our resources to the limit. This will seriously threaten our nation’s food supply.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 76 million people get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 Americans die each year from food borne illness.

“The Thomas Trade Promotion Authority legislation does little to address the food safety concerns and in some cases may undermine existing protections that have been created at the national level,” Green concluded.

State Representative Kevin Bailey announces reelection bid

State Representative Kevin Bailey, has announced his reelection bid for District 140.

Bailey, who is seeking reelection to Texas House of Representatives currently serves on the State Affairs and House Administration committees. He is vice-chairman of the Urban Affairs Committee that oversees all legislation affecting cities and major metropolitan areas and one of only two representatives to be given a fourth committee assignment to the Constitutional Revision Committee. In addition, Bailey is the chairman of the Legislative Study Group, an Organization of more than 70 House members.

Bailey’s consistent legislative efforts are evidence of his strong belief in addressing the needs of his district. “I believe we have made significant progress in making improvements in north Houston,” said Bailey. “In the last legislative session a bill was passed creating the Aldine Community District to provide economic growth for our area. In addition, new legislation allows Harris County to contract with water / sewer providers to bring clean water and sewer to communities in need of the services. Also, I sponsored legislation that allows the City of Houston to demolish and remove dangerous buildings in a timely manner. The legislation was signed into law and became effective September 1.”

Over the next year, Rep. Bailey will be preparing to address issues that the legislature will face in the 2003 Legislative Session including the state’s ability to respond to terrorists’ threats and the pending deregulation of electric utilities along with many other issues.

Shopping safely on the internet

Q: I like the idea of shopping online for the holidays, but I have heard so many horror stories about purchases that never arrived or products that weren’t as advertised. Plus it seems like Internet businesses go out of business so often these days. Any thoughts on how I can shop safely?

A: Online shopping is becoming an increasingly popular way of shopping for many who are pressed for time. You can take care of your entire holiday gift list with a few clicks of your mouse. However, some online companies out there are not what they seem to be. The Consumer Protection Division of my office receives complaints Internet companies that have not delivered as promised.

Fortunately, most of these complaints are resolved quickly. But here are some tips to help you avoid running into problems in the first place.

Always try to deal with well-known retailers. Be cautious of online stores that have names that are similar to other well-known companies. These names may simply be a trick to get you to reveal your personal information.

Find out if the seller is based overseas. This can affect both delivery time and shipping costs. It can also make it more difficult to return items.
Only shop at sites that protect credit card information. If you don’t know about a site’s security program, ask the company directly. Then your credit card to make online purchases rather than a debit card.

This way, if you have a problem with the company or the merchandise, you can dispute it through the credit card company.

Or consider sending your payment by mail. Make sure you find out about the site’s privacy policy. Too many sites automatically collect information about you and your online shopping habits and then share it with other companies, advertisers or marketers. Ask about shopping and delivery fees. Remember that the closer you get to the holidays, the more it may cost for you to ship your purchases.

In addition, it may take longer for packages to arrive. And while a company may promise overnight delivery, they aren’t always able to fill orders immediately.

Review the company’s return and warranty policies carefully.

Print and save copies of all your orders and receipts. In addition, you should make sure you have a physical address and telephone number for the company in case you need to return your purchase.

If you do end up having a problem with a product ordered online, contact the retailer first and give them an opportunity to resolve the situation. If that doesn’t work, you can consider contesting the charge on your credit card, which means the credit card company will deal directly with the retailer.
Finally, you can take advantage of the voluntary complaint resolution service offered by my office.

My Consumer Protection Division works to resolve problems between consumers and businesses, and in most cases we are successful.

To file a complaint, you can visit our Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us and fill out our online consumer complaint form.

You can also request a form by calling us at (800) 651-0508.

Our Web site contains tips and information for consumers on a wide variety of topics. And the Internet Bureau section of our site has more information for using the Internet safely.

Three days at ground zero

To get to “Ground Zero” in Lower Manhattan, New York City, from my home in Alvin, Texas, takes an hour-long car ride, a three-hour plane trip, a bus, a train, a subway, and a long walk down deserted city streets. I don’t know what made me go to New York, but something pulled me there, something called to me and told me to go.

What breaks your heart: Missing person posters, faded with rain and time. The devastation on firefighters’ faces. Memorials covered with flowers, stuffed animals, patches from other police departments and fire agencies. Letters from families left at the memorials that begin, “Dear mom.” Uptown New Yorkers on the subway who are smiling and laughing until you step into the car covered in mud, wearing a hardhat, and suddenly you have brought Ground Zero into their neighborhood. The Navy Chaplain who came to New York as a volunteer and in the first 10 minutes he is overwhelmed. He tells me, “This is hell. This is hell.” The firefighter who tells me, “There are 6,000 people in there. Where are my friends? Where are my buddies?” as he stares at the massive pile of rubble that will not fit neatly into a television screen. Thinking you’ve left Ground Zero until you look up and see the peripheral damage to the buildings, blocks from the site. Walking into the hotel on the border of Ground Zero and stepping ankle deep into papers, dust and broken glass. The police officer who tells me, “I know I was here the first day, but I can’t remember what I did. I can’t remember. I can’t remember.” Knowing that everything you’ve seen is nothing like the destruction of the first day.

What makes your heart sing: The Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the many volunteers who work around the clock to provide comfort to those at Ground Zero. Mass everyday at 4 p.m., prayer stations, chaplains, stacks of bibles left at memorials, rosaries lying right next to granola bars to feed the spirit as well as the stomach. Nino’s and other New York restaurants cooking around the clock and sending the hot meals that make all the difference in the cold and the rain. The crew at McDonald’s that brings food and drinks directly to the workers so they don’t have to leave the site. New Yorkers on the subway who say, “Thank you,” and “God bless you,” and mean it. Therapy dogs getting fat from too many treats. The police officer who asked me, “Where should we put our Christmas tree?” and the realization that the NYPD and FDNY are not leaving until all the victims they can possibly find are brought out of the tomb. The ironworkers, the carpenters, FEMA, OSHA, and the many people not in uniforms who are working so hard to get the job done. The 200 foot flag painted on the asphalt of a dead end street so that planes flying overhead can see it and know that New York is grateful, New York has hope. The T-shirts that say, “I still love New York.” The firefighter from Queens, Rescue Four, who literally gave me the shirt off his back.

The E-mails from NYPD officers, still working at the site, thanking me for coming and asking, “When can you come back?” And the feeling that, given the chance, I would hop the first plane to Newark, ride the bus, the train, the subway, walk the long city blocks and do it all over again.

Note: Officer Jennifer Coffelt is assigned to HPD’s Juvenile Division.