Archive for December, 2011

City of Houston Announces Inauguration Plans
December 29, 2011

Seven new faces will join city of Houston government next week when they are sworn in as city council members.  Council members-elect Larry Green, Andrew Burks, Jack Christie, Helena Brown, Ellen Cohen,  Jerry Davis and Mike Laster  will join Mayor Annise Parker and other city leaders at the inaugural festivities, which are open to the public.

Houston city council member elect

The State of Texas
CITY OF HOUSTON
You are cordially invited to the inauguration and swearing in of the Mayor of the City of Houston, the City Controller and the City Council
on
Tuesday morning, January 3, 2012
commencing at 9:30 a.m. sharp
at the
HOBBY CENTER for the Performing Arts
800 Bagby – Downtown Houston
The Honorable Annise D Parker
Mayor
The Honorable Ronald Green
City Controller
The Honorable Helena Brown
City Council District A
The Honorable Jerry Davis
City Council District B
The Honorable Ellen Cohen
City Council District C
The Honorable Wanda Adams
City Council District D
The Honorable Michael Sullivan
City Council District E
The Honorable Al Hoang
City Council District F
The Honorable Oliver Pennington
City Council District G
The Honorable Ed Gonzalez
City Council District H
The Honorable James Rodriguez
District I
The Honorable Mike Laster

District J

The Honorable Larry Green
District K
The Honorable Stephen Costello
At Large Position 1
The Honorable Andrew Burks Jr
At Large Position 2
The Honorable Melissa Noriega
At Large Position 3
The Honorable C.O. Bradford
At Large Position 4
The Honorable Jack Christie
At Large Position 5
Immediately following the Inaugural ceremony, the Mayor, Controller and City Council will retire to Council Chambers located across Bagby on the 2nd Floor of City Hall for the 1st official meeting of the new council for 2012 beginning at 11:00 a.m.
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Gov. Perry Grants Clemency to Eight
December 22, 2011

— Gov. Rick Perry has granted clemency to eight individuals after each case was favorably recommended for clemency by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Full pardons were granted to:

Maria Isabel Colmenares-Rodriguez, 58, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., was convicted of shoplifting in 1974 at the age of 21. She was sentenced to pay a $50 fine. ·

Tommie Emerson Elder, 57, of Houston, was convicted of burglary of a motor vehicle in 1976 at the age of 22. He was sentenced to three years in jail, which was probated for three years. ·

Beverly Troupe Enoch, 33, of Houston, was convicted of assault with bodily injury in 1996 at the age of 18. She was sentenced to 20 days in jail, and paid a $100 fine. ·

Marilyn Jean Hensley, 73, of Lewisville, was convicted of theft by check between $20 and $200 in 1982 at the age of 44. She was sentenced to 12 months in jail, which was probated for 12 months, and paid a $50 fine. ·

Shelanda Renee Jackson, 42, of Houston, was convicted of unlawfully carrying a weapon in 1988 at the age of 18. She was sentenced to three days in jail, and paid a $500 fine. ·

Annup Raj Joshi, 39, of Tallahassee, Fla., was convicted of theft of property between $50 and $500 in 1997 at the age of 25. He was sentenced to six months in jail, which was probated for two years, and paid a $500 fine. ·

Michael Curtis Owings, 67, of Bay St. Louis, Miss., was convicted of burglary of a coin-operated machine and breaking and entering a coin-operated machine in 1964 at the age of 20. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

Cheri Hope Williams, 47 of College Station, was convicted of shoplifting in 1983 at the age of 19. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail, which was probated for 180 days, and paid a $300 fine. # #

Farouk Shami Joins Celebrities on Charity Mission to Haiti
December 14, 2011

Farouk Shami Joins Maria Bello, Patricia Arquette, and

Kim Kardashian on Charity Mission to Haiti

IMMEDIATE RELEASE –In the true spirit of the giving season, Farouk Shami, founder and chairman of Farouk Systems, makers of CHI and BioSilk, collaborated with Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, actresses Maria Bello (co-founder of We Advance) and Patricia Arquette (co-founder of Give Love) and the Sow a Seed organization to spread a little holiday cheer to the Haitian children and families who need it most. Farouk accompanied and provided air transportation for the group’s four day relief trip, December 8-11, 2011 to Port-au-Prince, Haiti and some of the country’s poorest areas in need of aid.

To ensure the scheduled relief trip occurred as planned, Farouk and the We Advance team stocked the CHI plane with medical supplies, hygiene kits, 1,000 CHI Organics kits and other basic necessities and took flight. Kris Jenner and Kim Kardashian joined Farouk on the CHI plane. Included on the group’s whirlwind agenda: visiting the Artists for Peace & Justice School, replenishing supplies at the We Advance clinics, partaking in weekly bath day activities, attending a Haitian fashion show put on by local women and designers, and joining Sow a Seed for their annual Christmas party bringing joy and holiday gifts to 500 orphans from across the island. The trip commenced with an intimate meeting with the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly, to discuss the current state of affairs in Haiti.

“I am extremely grateful, and humbled, that we are able to provide and be a part of this incredible opportunity,” Farouk said. “To be able to give the gift of clean water, health care and hygiene products is inexplicable. Daily necessities most people take for granted are life changing items in Haiti. I’m honored that Maria and the We Advance organization thought of us when planning this charitable effort.”

The We Advance Organization was established in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in January 2010 and works mainly in the Wharf Jeremy and Cite Soleil slums. They aim to educate community leaders in the aspects of health, safety and education as well as empower the minds of Haitian women and bring light and awareness to Gender Based Violence. They currently operate 2 health clinics in Haiti. Find out more about the We Advance Organization at www.weadvance.org.

The Sow a Seed Organization was founded in 2004 and they assist struggling orphanages in Haiti with food, water, shelter, education and healthcare. They are also dedicated to educating parents in Haiti and providing resources to keep families together. For more information about Sow a Seed visit www.sowaseed.org.

Council Member Jones Issues Statement Following Election Defeat
December 12, 2011

On Saturday, two term city council incumbent Jolanda “Jo” Jones was defeated by conservative Jack Christie.

Jones did not speak to the media after Saturday’s defeat, but today she issued the following statement:

“It has been a privilege to serve the public and to have the opportunity to speak for those often without a voice at city hall. I have always respected the will of the voters and believe that when the people speak, we should listen. I will continue to serve out my term with the same focus on fiscal responsibility, jobs and fairness. I am certain that my contributions to the community have not ended with this elected term. I would like to thank my family, friends, staff and the many organizations that supported me in this election and throughout my time on city council. The People are the City.”

Christmas Celebration of Cheer, Charity and a Hot County Band
December 10, 2011

Every year, the Lanier Law Firm hosts a holiday bash for family, friends and associates. Houston Power Attorney Mark Lanier and his wife, Becky, combine holiday cheer with charitable giving to make this celebration different from the average office party.

The anticipation begins when the highly coveted and always creative invitation arrives in the mail. This year, the invitation was designed like a Rubik’s Cube.

20111207-223513.jpg

Invitees were thrilled to learn that the country music band,  Rascal Flatts,  would perform at the end of the evening. In the past, the Lanier’s have brought in performers like Jon Bon Jovi, George Strait and Stevie Wonder.

The Laniers encouraged their party guests to donate to Guatemala SANA, a special charity benefiting the children of Guatemala. Mrs. Lanier is on the board and the program provides education and healthcare services.

The Laniers live on sprawling property in Northwest Harris County. I arrived too late to walk around the entire event, but it was clear that the party offered something for everyone: play areas for the kids, food stations and a huge tent for the concert, which was important this year because of the cold and rainy weather.

Rascal Flatts entertained the audience, which included Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst with a mix of country and rock and roll music.

Perry Campaign Releases New Ad Attacking Pres.Obama
December 7, 2011

As Governor Rick Perry tries to reboot his presidential campaign, he has released a new ad called: “Strong” Defending Faith Against Obama Policies

The 30- second television ad attacks gays in the military and the ban on prayer in schools and what Perry calls President Obama’s “war on religion”

Here’s the text of the ad: Gov. Perry: “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

“As President, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.”

“Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.”

I’m Rick Perry and I approve this message. Text: Approved by Rick Perry and paid for by RickPerry.org, Inc.

State Parks Need Financial Help After Fires & Drought
December 6, 2011

 

(news release)

Texas State Parks Announce $4.6 million Appeal for Help

Record heat, drought, wildfires spark call for park visits, donations

AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department today hosted 11 news conferences at different locations across the state, appealing to the public to visit state parks and make donations to help offset a revenue loss caused by heat, drought, wildfires and a resulting drop in park visitor revenue.

“A ‘triple whammy’ of record heat and drought, devastating wildfires and a corresponding decline in visitation and revenue has created a critical need for Texas State Parks,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “So, we are reaching out for help.”

TPWD held news conferences at the following state parks or other locations in cities across Texas: McKinney Falls/Austin, Government Canyon/San Antonio, Sheldon Lake/Houston, Cedar Hill/Dallas-Fort Worth, Abilene SP/Abilene, Amarillo Convention and Visitors Council office/Amarillo, Mustang Island/Corpus Christi, State Parks Office/El Paso, Estero Llano Grande/Rio Grande Valley, Tyler SP/Tyler, and Mother Neff/Waco.

Visitor fees fund about half the $69 million operating budget for the state park system, subject to legislative appropriations. For many years, there’s been a steady upward trend, with more people visiting parks generating more revenue to operate them–until this year.

Through the summer and into early fall, traditionally a busy time for parks, many Texans stayed home because of the dry heat. Shriveling lakes and rivers disrupted swimming, fishing and boating, and burn bans prevented campfires. Also, three popular state parks–Bastrop, Davis Mountains and Possum Kingdom–suffered major wildfire damage and produced no revenue for weeks, though all are now back open to varying degrees.

As a result, in August state park system revenue declined 25 percent compared to the same month last year. So far this fall revenue is down11 percent–improving, but still not close to what park leaders say is needed.

“The bottom line is we have a $4.6 million gap in our 2012 park system operating budget,” Smith said. “This is the amount we need to raise to help keep state parks open. We want to alert people now while there is still time to help.”

TPWD is rolling out a multi-faceted awareness campaign stressing three calls to action:

  • One, go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us/helpparksto make a tax-deductible, year-end donation.
  • Two, starting Jan. 1, make a donation when you renew your motor vehicle registration.
  • And, most important, because visitor fees pay for about half of park system operating costs, visit state parks.

“Cooler weather makes fall and winter a fine time to visit state parks, which are great places for holiday outings and gatherings,” said Brent Leisure, TPWD state parks director. “Also, recent rains are allowing many of our parks to lift burn bans. That’s making campfires possible once again, an important tradition for many park visitors.”

Leisure said state parks are important for many reasons. They protect unique places and provide settings for healthy outdoor recreation and family fun for millions of people. 

State parks are also economic engines for nature tourism. In a 2008 study, the Texas Comptroller found state parks draw outside tourists into host counties, generating millions in annual retail sales and local resident income.

The Texas State Parks operating budget is based on legislative appropriations, but relies on revenue generated by visitor fees. This year, an additional $3 million in revenue was projected.

Also, the legislature passed a new option that allows people to make a donation when they renew their motor vehicle registration, estimating that would raise at least $1.6 million per year. Starting Jan. 1 drivers can donate $5 or more when renewing their registration by mail, at the county tax office or online in counties offering online payment.

“The state park system 2012 budget was set anticipating those two items would raise a total of $4.6 million,” Smith said. “But the money is not there because park visitation and revenue are down markedly due to drought and wildfires, and the vehicle registration donation program is just getting underway for renewals due in January.”

The department is also providing video, radio, web and social media resources for the media and public, all emphasizing the same three calls to action.

Many state parks offer reduced camping fees during “off-peak” fall and winter months, especially for longer stays. Many parks have lifted burn bans—check online for the latest information. And dozens of state parks are hosting special holiday events in December. See http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/calendar/holidays for dates, locations and descriptions.

To learn about the various Texas State Parks and their offerings, or to make online camping reservations, visit http://www.texasstateparks.org. Or call state park information at 1-800-792-1112, option 3, between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Resources for news media, including photos of drought and wildfires, downloadable video, and radio news soundbites, are in a Park Awareness News Roundup online.

Jolanda Jones Gets Big Endorsement In Council Runoff Race
December 5, 2011

Houston city council incumbent Jolanda Jones has picked up an important endorsement in the runoff election.

Former opponent Bob Ryan, who finished in fourth place behind Laurie Robinson in the general election , is endorsing Jones.  Jones faces Jack Christie in the December 10 runoff election for the city council at-large position 5 seat.

In his written endorsement, Ryan states, “While I may not agree with all Council member Jones’ positions, she is one of  the few at City Hall that will stand up for the downtrodden, even when it’s one against fourteen.”

Click on this link and you can read the entire letter from Bob Ryan Endorsing Jones

Texas Black Caucus Leaders Unhappy With New Election Maps
December 4, 2011

The battle over redistricting faces another test. This time from members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, who have called a news conference on Monday, December 5, to discuss the interim Texas House Maps.

The group, which includes State Rep. Sylvester Turner, State Rep. Harold Dutton, State Rep.Alma Allen and State Rep. Borris Miles of Houston, believes historical African American communities are being torn apart for the 2012 Elections

According to a news release, the Houston-area members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus say the interim maps for the State House districts will have a devastating impact on neighborhoods and traditional communities of interest which bind together the African American community in the Houston area.

The news release says the four African American members of the Texas House from Houston will lay out just what this will mean to the community. Not all minority groups, especially African Americans, are happy with the interim maps as they believe their communities have been adversely affected. The news conference will be held at the site of a venerable community center, Hester House in the Fifth Ward, which is now stripped from its historical legislative district under the interim map

Brandon Dudley Plans to Run for House District 137
December 4, 2011

After a stunning announcement by State Representative Scott Hochberg that he would not seek re-election,  I’m starting to hear names of  several potential candidates. 

One name familiar to many voters is Brandon Dudley, Chief of Staff  and General Counsel for State Senator Rodney Ellis and a former candidate for state district criminal court judge.

 I spoke with Dudley and he confirmed that he will file to run for office as early as Monday morning. 

Why is he running? This is what he had to say:

“Representative Hochberg’s decision not to run again is a great loss  to the people of Houston and the state of  Texas,” said Dudley.  “He’s been a model public servant and will be sorely missed. I believe strongly that I can continue the legacy and provide the people of House District 137 the representation they deserve, which is why I’m planning to run. I look forward to the opportunity to earn everyone’s support in the weeks ahead, and fighting to create a better future for all Texas families for years to come.”