Archive for March, 2011

Yao Ming Wants Your Old Computer
March 30, 2011

 He’s still listed as injured reserved for the Houston Rockets, so Yao Ming isn’t likely to slam dunk your old electronics.

Still, its super cool that the star center will participate in an electronics recycle drive at Toyota Center on Thursday.

So grab your tired computers, outdated printers and busted television sets and exchange them for a chance to see a pro basketball star and tickets to the annual environmental awareness Game.

I’ve posted the details below:

Houston Rockets Center Yao Ming to Participate in Electronics Recycle Drive

 The Houston Rockets and Republic Services are hosting a free e-recycling drive for outdated or end of life electronics at Toyota Center on Thursday, March 31 between 8am and 2pm.  

Acceptable items include televisions, laptop and desktop computers, monitors and peripherals such as keyboards and mice.  Rockets fans who bring large items for recycling will receive two tickets to the fourth annual Environmental Awareness Game on April 5, 2011 as the Houston Rockets take on the Sacramento Kings (while supplies last, limit of two tickets per donor).

 WHO:             Houston Rockets center Yao Ming will be at Toyota Center on Thursday to greet donors and help distribute ticket vouchers.  There will also be a special appearance from Houston Rockets mascot Clutch the ‘Green’ Bear. 

WHEN:          Thursday, March 31, 2011

                        1:15pm

                        WHERE:       Toyota Center

                        1510 Polk Street

                        Donors should approach Toyota Center on LaBranch Street

     

Fast Facts About The Final Four
March 29, 2011

Thanks to the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau for providing us with some interesting facts as Houston prepares to host the Final Four. 

2011 NCAA Final Four expected to drop $100M+ in Houston April 2-4

 By the Numbers

  • Roughly 77,000 fans are expected to attend one or more of the Final Four games; approximately 70,000 of these will be visitors to Houston
  • The GHCVB estimates direct spending related to Final Four will top $100 million. This figure represents only attendee spending and is NOT an overall economic impact estimate. Airline tickets, game tickets, shopping and other fan expenses are not included in this figure, nor is temporary employment surrounding the event.
  • Hotel room block consists of 45,000 rooms, primarily in the Downtown and Galleria areas
  • 12 area restaurants are designated as official fan gathering zones
  • 4 fan zones include Downtown/Midtown, Washington Avenue, Uptown/Galleria and Reliant Stadium (Reliant Zone open to ticket holders only)

 The Drill 

The NCAA Final Four is the annual championship matchup for college basketball. Sixty eight teams qualify for the tournament. Teams competing in the Final Four are those that made it through regional semifinals (the Sweet Sixteen) and regional finals (the Elite Eight).  

Houston last hosted the Final Four in 1971, making this the 40th anniversary of the tournament in the Bayou City. Houston will host the Final Four again in 2016.

 Fans looking for hotel rooms or ticket packages should visit www.fanexperiences.com. On March 25, just before the four teams are determined, hotels in the Final Four room block that have rooms available will be posted at www.VisitHoustonTexas.com.

 Final Four Firsts in Houston 

  • The 2011 Final Four marks the first time local restaurants have participated in official tournament events. Thirty-two restaurants competed to be one of four vendors selling their dishes at The Big Dance. Max’s Wine Dive, the Original Ninfa’s, The Tasting Room and the House of Blues were awarded places at the festival, which is expecting more than 25,000 people a day to downtown’s Discovery Green. Kenny Chesney and The Kings of Leon are among the headliners at the Big Dance.

 *Tailgating will be allowed at the tournament for the first time with the introduction of the Tip-off Tailgate Party presented by Infiniti, a festival-like gathering outside Reliant Stadium prior to the game where fans can purchase BBQ and hear live music. It’s a fitting first for Houston, which was named one of the top 10 tailgating cities in the nation by Forbes magazine. (note: the Tip-off is open to ticketholders only).

 This year’s Final Four will be the largest ever based on the number of tickets sold. The stadium-in-the-round set-up the NCAA developed in recent years will allow more fans to see the actual games. Meanwhile official events such as The Big Dance at Discovery Green, Bracket Town inside the George R. Brown Convention Center and four official fan zones across the city will bring large numbers of visitors and locals into the action.

 Quotes from Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Greg Ortale:  

“The potential for Houston is significant. We’re bringing in 70,000 people who probably have not been here recently. This is a valuable opportunity for us to show off the changes to our city and promote who we are.”

  “People will be in town for four days and they will be looking for things to do when they’re not at the games. So they’re going to be shopping, dining, going to some of our local attractions and generally enjoying Houston.”

 “In the last three years, the NCAA has made a concerted effort to really reach out to the community of the host cities. We saw it in Detroit in 2009 and in Indianapolis in 2010. Here in Houston, they are building or refurbishing 68 basketball courts around town as a way of giving back. And for locals who can’t get into the actual games, the Big Dance and Bracket Town are a way for everyone to be part of the experience. The NCAA wants to make this a celebration for the entire community.”  

“The fact that we have already been awarded the 2016 Final Four before we’ve even hosted the 2011 tournament speaks to the confidence organizers have in Houston to produce a major sporting event and deliver a quality experience.”  

Click the link for additional information on official Final Four events, fan zones and more. http://www.visithoustontexas.com/visitors/ncaa_final_four_2011/schedule

 

Former Opponent Endorses Mayor Parker for Re-Election
March 28, 2011

You know the saying, “politics makes for strange bedfellows?”

That thought must be reverberating in the minds of many Houstonians this week as they started receiving invitations in the mail for Mayor Annise Parker’s first re-election campaign kick-off fundraiser.  

The invitation includes a surprising endorsement from the Mayor’s former political opponent, Houston Attorney Gene Locke.

On the surface it seems like an unlikely alliance – considering they faced off in a heated runoff race in 2009

But that was then and this is 2011. 

Over the past several months Parker and Locke have apparently found common ground.

“Annise Parker is bringing Houstonians together to solve our toughest challenges,” states Locke’s endorsement on the invitation.

The invitation also includes words of praise from former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier, who endorsed Locke during 2009 mayoral race.

The April 6th event is expected to help build the Mayor’s already hefty campaign war chest. 

While she has suffered a handful of  bitter losses to city council  during her first term, she’s also scored some impressive victories.

The Mayor seems poised to run on a record of responsible leadership during a time of economic challenges facing the city. Her solutions have included employee furloughs, layoffs and streamlining of all city departments.

  

Don’t worry if you can’t afford to contribute to the Mayor’s campaign for a second term. Sources in her camp tell me that they are working on plans for a public kickoff event on April 23rd at Discovery Green. Details are still TBA.

Coalition for a Greater Houston Rejects Mayors’ Exemption Proposal
March 28, 2011

As Mayor Annise Parker prepares to meet in a special called meeting with members of  city council Monday afternoon to explain her proposed changes to Proposition 1, Rebuild Houston, a coalition of church, school, business and community leaders is rejecting the compromise plan.

The group says it will not support Mayor Annise Parker’s proposal on church and school exemptions.

“Unfortunately the mayor still has not responded to the fundamental concerns of the community by this very limited exemption plan.” They plan to express these concerns at today’s Drainage and Flooding Committee meeting in “full force,” stated coalition spokesman Paul Bettencourt.

(news release)

Bettencourt explained that the basis for her exemptions is the revelation that the proposed initial fee raised more revenues than the minimum $125 million and the exemptions were still in fact paid for by the rest of the taxpayers. “We have said from the first day that churches, schools and charities should be exempted from this de facto property tax, however it must be done so the amount of the exemption is not placed on the backs of the homeowners and businesses,” Bettencourt said. “Her exemptions are based on overcharging the rest of the taxpayers rather than doing it right.”

Pastor Steve Riggle, speaking on behalf of the churches in the coalition asserted that there are two other “fatal flaws” in the mayor’s proposal. “Her proposed exemptions are not granted to churches and schools built after this ordinance takes effect, which is patently unacceptable,” Riggle asserted.  “In addition, she should simply support and wait on passage of SB 714 and HB 1022 in the legislature so private schools, hospitals and charities such as Salvation Army can be exempted as they are from existing property taxes.”

Both Bettencourt and Riggle affirmed the coalition’s complete opposition to any implementation of an ordinance at this time. “There is an election challenge lawsuit in the courts over the deceptively vague ballot language and the city council should not act until it is decided.” Bettencourt stated. “In addition we would expect Councilman Costello to abide by Article 7, Section 4 of the City of Houston Charter and avoid the obvious conflict of interest provisions by not voting on the proposed drainage fee ordinance,” he concluded.

Riggle concurred and said that Mayor Parker and the city council should act to restore the trust lost in city government by “putting on the brakes.” “If the mayor and city council truly want to govern with integrity it is time to just stop this ill conceived scheme by not implementing the ordinance until this dark cloud of moral, ethical and legal questions are resolved.”

U.S. Surgeon General Promotes Healthy Lifestyles During Visit To Houston
March 27, 2011

As the country’s top physician, Dr. Regina Benjamin never misses an opportunity to encourage people to make healthy eating and physical activity a priority in their lives.

She never strayed from that message during an impassioned speech in front of hundreds of women and a few men who attended the 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Houston Chapter of the Links, INC. on Saturday.

As the keynote speaker, Dr. Benjamin covered a variety of health related topics. She encouraged people to walk for heart health and to combat obesity.  She also discussed the importance of  breastfeeding, the risks associated with smoking and the need to continue funding mental health and substance abuse programs.

Dr. Benjamin is the 18th surgeon General of the United States and in that role she strives to improve the health of the nation.  After her speech to the Links, she toured LBJ Hospital with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

Meanwhile, the sold out luncheon was co-chaired by Diedra Fontaine of United Airlines and Winell Herron of HEB.  

The Houston Chapter of The Links is engaged in educational, civic and intercultural activities in the local community.

League of Women Voters Houston Honors Political Pioneers
March 25, 2011

Dozens of heavyweight community leaders and elected officials gathered for an exciting nonpartisan event Friday afternoon.

The League of Women Voters Houston hosted its 10th annual Repast with Political Pioneers. This year the honorees were former Republican Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufmann and former Democratic elected official and Party Chair Sue Schechter.

 

Under the guidance of  President Nancy Parra and Executive Director Christina Gorczynski,  the Repast benefits the LWV Education Fund, a  nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring citizen participation in all aspects of government.  The Education Fund provides services including voter registration, voter education and the voter’s guide before every major election.

Hosts June Deadrick and Catherine Mosbacher did an excellent job of  introducing the honorees and giving the audience a revealing look at how both women managed to balance successful political careers while maintaining strong families and loyal friendships.

Faces in the crowd included Elected officials: Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, District Clerk Chris Daniels, County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez, Commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Morman,  Mayor Annise Parker, Council Member Jolanda Jones,  former Houston Mayor Bill White and his former chief of staff Michael Moore, PR consultant Sue Davis, Pierpont’s Nancy Sims, Planned Parenthood’s Mini Timmaraju, former city council member Ada Edwards, METRO’s Russ Frank. AT&T’s Alice Aanstoos, John Gorczynski, Raymundo Estrada and many more.

Mayor Parker Announces Changes to Rebuild Houston That Will Impact Your Wallet
March 25, 2011

March 25, 2010    
For weeks, local church leaders, school districts and some individual taxpayers have been complaining about Prop. 1, Rebuild Houston.Senator Dan Patrick of Houston had proposed legislation to exempt churches and school districts and some opponents filed a lawsuit to stop the plan from being implemented.Mayor Annise Parker announced Friday afternoon that she has heard the complaints and is making changes that will have to be approved by city council.

(news release)

Mayor Parker Announces New Rebuild Houston Funding Plan with Exemptions and Assistance for Low Income

Mayor Annise Parker today announced that she will ask City Council next week to approve a new Rebuild Houston funding plan that includes exemptions for churches and schools.  In addition to the exemptions, the City will set aside half a million dollars that will be available to assist the disabled, senior citizens and low-income residents who cannot afford the drainage charge. “I presented the draft Rebuild Houston Ordinance on February 6, 2011,” said Mayor Parker.  “It was exactly as I promised voters, with no exemptions and everyone paying their fair share.  After 10 town hall meetings, two public hearings, and discussions with council members, I believe this new plan properly balances community needs.  I promised Houston homeowners this would cost them about $5 a month.  The calculations indicate we can keep that promise while still helping our cash-strapped schools and our churches, and providing assistance to those who can’t afford the fee.” Mayor Parker wanted to work this out here at home, not at the state capitol, and appreciates the patience of her colleagues in Austin, especially State Representative Harold Dutton.  She calls this is an example of local control that accomplishes the goals she set at the beginning of this process.The city charter amendment approved by Houston voters last fall mandates the imposition of a new drainage fee to raise a minimum of $125 million annually for a dedicated, pay-as-you-go, street and drainage improvement program.  Monies raised from the fee must be placed in a lock box and cannot be used for other city needs. 

For efficiency and cost-savings, the city intends to bill property owners, when possible, by including the fee on city water bills.  Billing is scheduled to begin in July. 

Houston City Council will be briefed on details of the new fee, assistance plan and enforcement mechanism at a committee meeting at 2:30 p.m. Monday, March 28, 2011.  City Council will be asked to vote on the plan Wednesday

You Can Help Keep Houston Beautiful
March 25, 2011

(News Release)

Keep Houston Beautiful Day Will Leave City Shining 

Houston will be shining after hundreds of volunteers put in some serious cleanup work for Keep Houston Beautiful Day April 2. 

Students, community organizations and businesses will join forces for projects across the city.  It’s all part of the Great American Cleanup™. 

So many activities are planned for this year that one day could not contain them all.  The first project will be held March 29 in the Washington Avenue Corridor, as volunteers from Super Neighborhood 22, Republic Services, Houston Rockets and Asakura Robinson Company, clean up the area, plant trees, mow and even plant containers of vegetables.

 In honor of Houston’s 175th birthday this year, the Keep Houston Beautiful Day kickoff will be held April 1 at Allen’s Landing, the site where, according to legend, the Allen Brothers first set foot in what would become the City of Houston.  Volunteers from Lowe’s Heroes, Paul Revere Middle School and Houston Rockets will be picking up litter, mulching trees, power washing and painting park benches, to name a few of the tasks.

 On April 2, Keep Houston Beautiful will return to the Acres Homes area in northwest Houston to continue the Adopt-a-Ditch program begun last year in partnership with the City of Houston Public Works & Engineering Department Right of Way and Fleet Maintenance Division along Ferguson Way.  The goal of the effort is to raise the quality of life by transforming the adopted area into a cleaner, more environmentally pleasant place, keeping the ditch free of litter and debris while improving the quality of the storm water and drawing added attention to stopping illegal dumping in the area. 

Volunteers, including students from Chavez and Memorial High Schools, Greenstar Recycling and Kohl’s, will be planting trees and irises and putting up barriers to keep trucks from parking and prevent dumping.   Door prizes will be handed out at this event, including two roundtrip airline tickets courtesy of jetBlue Airways and tickets from the Houston Dynamo, Astros and Rockets.

Also that day, the East End Management District will be cleaning up Settegast Park.  A cleanup is also planned by residents of Keegan’s Glen and a landscaping project by the Hermann Park Conservancy.

 On April 9, Better Blocks Houston has an event planned on Holman St. in the Third Ward.  A Westbrae Parkway cleanup is scheduled for April 16 by the New Braeswood Revitalization Association. Two events will be held on April 30, Comcast Cares Day and the Houston Bar Association’s Trash Bash.

 For more information, please call Keep Houston Beautiful at 713-839-8855 or visit the website at www.houstonbeautiful.org.

Many generous supporters help make Keep Houston Beautiful Day possible, including Mayor Annise Parker and Houston City Council, State Representative Sylvester Turner, Asakura Robinson Company, Better Blocks Houston, Braes Oaks Management District, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Chavez and Memorial High Schools, City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department, City of Houston Public Works and Engineering Department Right of Way and Fleet Maintenance, East End Management District, Greenstar Recycling, Home Depot, Houston Dynamo, Houston Independent School District, Houston Rockets, JC Penney’s, jetBlue Airways, Kohl’s, Living Earth Technology, Lowe’s, Marathon Oil Corporation, Mayor’s Citizens’ Assistance Office, Moody-Rambin Interests, Neighborhood Protection Corps, Nestle, New Braeswood Revitalization Association, Paul Revere Middle School, Republic Waste Services, Scotts Miracle-Gro Company and Waste Management.

Keep Houston Beautiful is the city’s leading organization in beautification, litter reduction and recycling education. For 30 years, Keep Houston Beautiful has been reaching out to all segments of our community to educate and empower individuals to take greater responsibility for beautifying and enhancing Houston’s environment. Each year’s successes have created a cleaner and healthier city for all Houstonians.

The Great American Cleanup™ in Houston continues until May 28.  Groups interested in planning a project still have an opportunity to bring it to life. There are two ways to submit an application for a cleanup.  You can complete an on-line application at www.houstonbeautiful.org or call 713-839-8855 to have an application faxed to you.

Local High School Student Accepted To West Point
March 23, 2011

 Early college high school student accepted to West Point

  HOUSTON — How can you make a difference with just a picture frame and an alarm clock? Christal Theriot will find out when she begins her military officer training at the United States Military Academy at West Point this summer, armed with the only two personal possessions allowed to new cadets.

 As a senior at Clear Horizons Early College High School (CHECHS) at San Jacinto College South, the 17-year-old credits much of her academic and personal success to the program. 

“This program has truly changed my life,” said Theriot. “Clear Horizons has really shown me what I can do and helped to develop my academic mind. It’s given me a clear picture of the best version of myself, which will definitely help me as I go on to study at West Point.”

 Theriot first became interested in the military as a sophomore in high school. She was drawn to the structural and disciplined lifestyle, as well as the opportunities to become a leader as a military officer. She joined the Civil Air Patrol at Ellington Field where she became emergency services certified, and volunteered to hand out food to people in Galveston who lost their homes after Hurricane Ike. 

“The Civil Air Patrol not only teaches aerospace education, but they provide emergency services certification to student cadets, which enable them to help out in natural disasters, search and rescue, and other events. It’s a great way for the youth to be able to serve their communities locally,” she said.

 As the first person in her family to enter the military, her parents were nervous at first. Since she will be entering a military academy, Theriot will be under contract to serve five years in the Army upon graduating from West Point. With the ongoing war in Afghanistan and spreading political uprisings in surrounding Middle East countries, her family naturally worried that their oldest daughter would be thrown right in the middle of it. While her education and career plans don’t involve heavy artillery, Theriot expressed a great sense of pride and readiness to serve wherever she is needed.

 “I can’t wait to serve my country,” she said smiling. “When I went to see the campus, it just felt like I belong there; I was where I was supposed to be. I look forward to all the training we’ll receive and everything they’ll instill in us to become military officers.”

 It’s not hard to see the impression she leaves on people. Former SJC director of dual enrollment and CHECHS liason, Pam Campbell, recalls Theriot’s assuredness even at a young age.

 “From the moment she applied to Clear Horizons as a freshman, it was clear that she knew this was the best choice for her personally,” said Campbell, now assistant vice chancellor for educational partnerships at San Jacinto College. “Christal chose a rigorous high school experience because she had her eye on the prize- a mechanical engineering degree at a top college, and West Point was her first choice.” 

Upon graduating this May, Theriot will earn her associate degree in mathematics along with her high school diploma, and plans to major in mechanical engineering at West Point. Although she will be spending her 18th birthday in basic training, she is confident that she can take on these new challenges through her experience at CHECHS.

 “I’m more than prepared for what’s waiting for me. Clear Horizons has taken me so far; even if I tried thanking them a million times it wouldn’t be enough. Taking the education I’ve received at CHECHS and combining that with what I’ll get at West Point, I feel like I can be a part of advances in new technology. As an officer, I’ll be able to actually be a leader in innovation.” 

Theriot leaves for West Point in June, and like anyone leaving home for the first time, doesn’t want to think about leaving family and friends behind just yet. For now she is enjoying the rest of her senior year, collecting memories to take with her as she prepares to begin the next chapter in her life.

 About San Jacinto College 

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for nearly 50 years. We are committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of more than 29,000 students in over 140 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career-track choices. Students also benefit from the College’s workforce training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of ever-changing industry in the region. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.

            

Attorney Hired By Family of Man Who Fell To Death From Carnival Ride
March 23, 2011

The family of Brian Greenhouse has hired an attorney and a team of inspectors to  investigate whether his death was caused by malfunctioning equipment on a Rodeo Houston carnival ride.

On the last night of  one of the most successful Rodeos in recent years, Greenhouse plunged to his death from the Hi-Miler rollercoaster ride.  He was riding in the car alone, but his fiance was two seats behind him.

Sources tell 2 on The Beat that the attorney was hired on behalf of  Greenhouse’s six-year-old son.  Greenhouse was engaged to be married. He is also survived by family members who live throughout Chile and the United States.

The family’s attorney and inspectors visited Reliant Park Tuesday afternoon to view the ride and equipment.

They did not comment to reporters. Here’s a link to the story I filed on Tuesday: http://www.click2houston.com/video/27285371/index.html