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GALENA PARK: Air quality report cites health dangers

belinda vasquez - st john

Belinda Vasquez-St. John places monitors at Galena Park City Hall.

GALENA PARK – Belinda Vasquez-St. John spoke to the city council at their last meeting on July 15, and summarized a report her organization, Air Alliance Houston, had just issued on air quality issues in Galena Park. A summary of the report follows:

“Galena Park, Texas is an environmental justice community of some 10,000 residents on the Houston Ship Channel. The community is surrounded by the ship channel; industry, particularly that associated with Houston petrochemical industry; rail lines; and high traffic roadways, including I-10 to the north and 610 to the west.

Air Alliance Houston has been active in Galena Park for several years. It is a community in which concerns about pollution and public health run high. However, a lack of resources and knowledge leads to very little public engagement on issues that impact environmental quality and health. Although citizens are worried about their health, there is little sense that they can personally affect change.

Air Alliance Houston and Global Community Monitor conducted a community health impact survey, and community mapping workshop, and a community air monitoring project. Air monitoring was conducted over the course of a year for fine particulate matter and elemental carbon, a surrogate for diesel pollution. The results of the yearlong community air monitoring project form the basis of this report. An independent report was produced by a graduate student at the Rice University Department of Statistics.

Diesel pollution presents an unacceptable health risk in Galena Park. Cancer risk due to diesel pollution exposure may exceed 1 in 10,000. Fine particulate matter pollution may exceed federal health standards as well.

Galena Park must act now to reduce diesel and particulate matter pollution in order to protect its residents’ health. We recommend aggressive steps to limit diesel pollution by banning older, dirty trucks and diverting trucks from Galena Park roads. We also recommend further testing to determine the extent of air pollution in Galena Park, and its impacts.

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Supreme Court to define EPA “suit” for Waste Pits

AUSTIN – The Texas Supreme Court accepted certification from the Fifth Circuit Court to decide if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) orders a company to clean up something, is that a “suit.” This will determine who pays for cleanup of the waste pits in the San Jacinto River.

The high court will hear this case of whether an insurer has to pay for lawsuits that are in fact administrative actions of government agencies in Texas law. At present, a number of such decisions have been made in Texas and throughout the nation. The decisions reached before have fallen into three categories: those that require a formal complaint by the government agency, others saying if a letter has been issued by the agency that is like a suit, while others have determined that it may depend on how coercive the action is to the company before it is considered a suit.

Presented to the courts are documents that will allege that McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corporation, a waste disposal company, removed waste from a paper mill and released it in three ponds adjacent to the San Jacinto River during the 1960s and early 1970s.

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ASTRODOME PROPOSAL CRITICIZED BY EMMETT: Demolition plan called “silly”

The iconic “DOME” may be converted into a green area like the one shown in this diagram after County leaders recently expressed that they are open to consider a $66 million plan devised by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the NFL’s Houston Texans to demolish the Astrodome and become a green area like Discovery Green in downtown. (Photo courtesy of Gensler)

The iconic “DOME” may be converted into a green area like the one shown in this diagram after County leaders recently expressed that they are open to consider a $66 million plan devised by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the NFL’s Houston Texans to demolish the Astrodome and become a green area like Discovery Green in downtown. (Photo courtesy of Gensler)

HOUSTON, Texas – Last Thursday, July 17, 2014 Judge Ed Emmett called “silly” a new proposed plan to demolish the Astrodome and replace it with a design for a park-like green space with structures.

The Houston Texans and the Livestock Show and Rodeo have proposed to convert the iconic “Dome” into a green area, which they say will be like Discovery Green in Downtown Houston. The design was shown with renderings by the architectural firm, Gensler Associates.

Even though there is not a specific proposal nor is one under consideration by Harris County Commissioners Court; Judge Emmett said that demolishing the dome could be a waste of a valuable taxpayers asset. He noted that the partners that proposed this new scheme did not say how much money they were willing to put into its construction, and did not have a real use in mind for the space. They said the preliminary cost of this scheme was $66 million.

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What’s Happening to Our Schools? It’s not good

Dear Editor,

My name is Dickie Woods. I came to the delightful little town of Highlands about 30 years ago. I saw good people, a great school system, little traffic and awesome landscape. I bought some properties and got involved in the community and started some businesses. I took leadership roles in Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, and Water District # 1. I have been a supporter of the Volunteer Fire Department and the School District with donations and participated in Partner’s In Education and the Goose Creek Education Foundation.

At one time, I had four grandkids in GCCISD. Now, I have two. One graduated and is in college (my oldest) and one moved away because of a job change by her dad. I never took time to personally get involved in the schools other than with the Chamber or Rotary. I didn’t see the need until this past year. I was asked a couple of months ago, as a chamber director, to represent the Highlands Community on the Citizens Bond Advisory Committee. I filled out the application and was accepted, so that began my involvement with the administration. Now, I am hearing more about what is happening in the District and it is disturbing.

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A Call to Arms

Open Letter to the Public:

Our school district is in trouble and it is up to you to save it. Yes, you. A few brave souls have talked to, written, called, or emailed the seven Board members recently to ask for action regarding the current Superintendent. 400 or more expressed their opinion by personally attending the Board meeting on July 14. Now, the Board members need to hear from the rest of the thousands of you who care about the future of GCCISD. You need to demand that they stop the damage that is being done by the Superintendent’s personnel actions, as it is negatively affecting our schools, our principals, our teachers, our administrators, our counselors, our operations and support staff, and most importantly our children. Very simply, we made a mistake when we hired Salvador Cavazos and then allowed him to dismantle the very fabric and soul of our district. You need to demand that your school Board do the right thing, right now, and terminate this Superintendent’s employment with GCCISD immediately.

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Galena Park: COUNCIL SAYS “NO” TO MAYOR’S REFORMS

Mayor Moya confronts Councilman Simms regarding his insurance paid for by the city

Mayor Moya confronts Councilman Simms regarding his insurance paid for by the city

FIRINGS RESCINDED, MEETING CHAOTIC

GALENA PARK – One day after being sworn in as the new mayor of Galena Park, Esmeralda Moya issued orders to make sweeping changes in the administration and the way City Hall was run. In a stunning move, she fired 3 top administrators and changed the locks on the municipal building.

However, reaction came immediately from the City Administrator Robert Pruett, who stated that the city charter did not give the mayor authority to fire employees, except with the consent of city council.

Moya had fired Pruett, City Attorney Jim DeFoyd, and demoted Police Chief Jonathan Rader.

Monday’s Council meeting was called to try to resolve the actions of the mayor that Pruett deemed illegal, but an executive session scheduled for 4:00 p.m. was boycotted by Moya, who claimed the agenda was not correct. Immediately after, the meeting was reconvened in public session, with all parties present, including an outside attorney Jim Hightower, whom the council had hired to advise them on the legal interpretation of the city charter.

Hightower, of the firm Olsen and Olsen, gave his opinion on the charter, and said that the mayor does not have “unilateral” authority to fire employees, nor to change locks in the building.

After hearing this legal opinion, Councilman Simms took charge of the meeting. He moved and it was passed unanimously that he had the authority to sign checks, and that the mayor did not have the right to fire the employees unilaterally, and they voted to rescind the firings. Moya said she objected and vetoed the vote, but the councilmen voted to override her veto.

As Moya struggled to control the meeting, she stated that she had acted on the firings because that was what the people wanted, and that was why she was elected.

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Freeport St. construction on schedule

CONSTRUCTION WORKERS FROM ALLGOOD CONSTRUCTION prepare to pour concrete in a third new lane of the rebuilt Freeport Drive. Also being installed are new storm sewers and drains, and curbs and sidewalks.

CONSTRUCTION WORKERS FROM ALLGOOD CONSTRUCTION prepare to pour concrete in a third new lane of the rebuilt Freeport Drive. Also being installed are new storm sewers and drains, and curbs and sidewalks.

NORTH CHANNEL – Construction is progressing on schedule, and on budget, according to Harris County Precinct 2 coordinator Jeremy Phillips.

The $12.8 million dollar project started with an official groundbreaking last November 6th, as reported in the inaugural issue of the North Channel Star.

In his opening remarks, at that time Pct. 2 commissioner Jack Morman noted the benefit to the community, and that the money to pay for the project was primarily from the federal government, as reimbursement for damage from Hurricane Ike. The new storm sewer system should alleviate flooding in a similar hurricane situation, he said.

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Houston Port Authority achieves top ranking in Texas Comptroller program

houston port authorityThe Port Authority scored a perfect 22 out of 22 items in securing the new platinum level award, Executive Director Roger Guenther noted during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority. The Comptroller of Public Accounts launched the Leadership Circle program in 2009 to recognize local governments across Texas that strive to meet a high standard for financial transparency online.

Guenther also reported Tuesday that May 2014 operating revenues exceeded $23 million, the highest ever reported in a single month in PHA’s history. The increase in revenues was supported by growth in bulk cargos, in particular, steel, and leveraged value of real estate assets, he said.

In her remarks during the meeting, Port Commission Chairman Janiece Longoria reported on the Water Resources Reform and Development Act or WRRDA, signed into law by President Obama. The bill sets target appropriations for the full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund over time and contains provisions that would direct resources to “nationally significant ports” and “energy transfer ports.”

“Of course, our port fills both of those roles quite admirably,” Longoria said. “And our local Congressional delegation once again came together in a bipartisan way to meet the Port Authority’s needs in this legislation.”

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Over 190 DWI arrests made during Fourth of July holiday weekend

DWI arrest scene.

DWI arrest scene.

HOUSTON — The combined efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies in Harris County resulted in the arrest of 192 individuals suspected of driving drunk during the holiday weekend. Additionally, the HCSO’s Traffic Enforcement Division investigated three fatal car accidents during the same time period.

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Shake-up at Galena Park City Hall in the works

BREAKING NEWS:

Channel 13 is reporting late on Wednesday, July 2 that the new Galena Park mayor Esmeralda Moya has made changes in the top levels of the city administration. Reportedly she has fired City Administrator Robert Pruett, City Attorney Jim DeFoyd, and demoted Police Chief Jonathan Rader. The station also reports that she has changed all the locks on the outside doors, and has not given anyone a key.

When asked by channel 13 reporter Debra Wrigley why she acted, Moya replied that she had compaigned on the promise of making changes, and that is what she is doing.

City Administrator Pruett told Wrigley that Moya does not have the authority to make the changes without council action, and he refuses to leave his post. Entry to the building is under the control of constable deputies at this time, and a council meeting is scheduled for next week to resolve some of the questions.

The North Channel Star has queried Moya about her actions and future intentions. An answer is awaited and will be reported here and in print in the North Channel Star.