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CONGRESSMAN GENE GREEN’S IMMUNIZATION DAY

CONGRESSMAN GREEN confers with some of the Healthcare Providers that helped administer immunization shots, to the hundreds of children pictured in the background of the Galena Park High School gymnasium.

CONGRESSMAN GREEN confers with some of the Healthcare Providers that helped administer immunization shots, to the hundreds of children pictured in the background of the Galena Park High School gymnasium.

Over 1,800 vaccines administered to students

GALENA PARK – The halls of the high school were lined with hundreds of students ready to receive their annual immunization shots, and to receive backpacks and school supplies donated by Rotary District 5890, with the help of two local Rotary Clubs.

In an expansion of his annual drive, Green had arranged to administer these shots in three locations this year, Aldine, Galena Park, and the AAMA Learning Center on the Gulf Freeway. All of these areas are in Green’s Congressional District, Texas 29th.

Rep. Gene Green’s 20th Annual Immunization Days served over 2,500 participants this year, with qualified volunteers delivering more than 1,800 vaccines.

“By hosting this event over two days and three locations, we were able to serve more people than last year,” Green said. “We had over 2,500 attendees, and more than 900 children received the vaccines they needed, free of charge.”

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out an analysis of how many children’s lives have been saved by immunizations between 1994 and 2013. The CDC estimated that among the 78.6 million children born during that period, vaccines prevented 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 premature deaths.

“Vaccines save lives, and they are the best investment we can make for public health, and for our children’s future,” Green said. “Since 1996, our office has hosted Immunization Day and thousands of children have received free vaccines. Through events like this and a coordinated effort on the city and county level, the immunization rate in Harris County has increased from 64 percent for school-aged children in 2002 to 76 percent today. We have to continue to make them more widely accessible, as well as easier to access and track.”

GREEN partnered with a number of organizations to achieve this large immunization, including these members of the North Shore and Galena Park/Jacinto City Rotary Clubs.

GREEN partnered with a number of organizations to achieve this large immunization, including these members of the North Shore and Galena Park/Jacinto City Rotary Clubs.

Immunization Day was held in partnership with Aldine ISD, Galena Park ISD, AAMA Learning Center, Harris Health System, Aldine Community Health Center, Texas Children’s Hospital, Vecino Health Centers, Saint Hope Foundation, Texas Children’s Health Plan, LyondellBasell, Rotary International District 5890, Texas Medical Association Foundation, Walgreens, Sea Smiles Dental, Lone Star College Nursing Program, University of Houston and Texas Southern University Pharmacy Programs, and San Jacinto College Nursing School.

State Rep. Ana Hernandez presents Legislative updates

STATE REPRESENTATIVE ANA HERNANDEZ led a presentation on recent Legislative actions, along with State Senator Sylvia Garcia and Pct. 2 Constable Chris Diaz. (NORTH CHANNEL STAR PHOTO/Hoffman)

STATE REPRESENTATIVE ANA HERNANDEZ led a presentation on recent Legislative actions, along with State Senator Sylvia Garcia and Pct. 2 Constable Chris Diaz. (NORTH CHANNEL STAR PHOTO/Hoffman)

GALENA PARK – State Representative Ana Hernandez is holding a series of Town Hall meetings, to report to the public on the results of the 84th Legislative Session that finished its work in June.

Hernandez also had the help of State Representative Sylvia Garcia, Pct. 2 Constable Chris Diaz, and at times the help of her 5 year old son Gregory.

Her presentation was aided by very detailed and understandable slides, covering all the major points.

She explained the legislative process, the makeup of the House and Senate, and what their responsibilities are. They meet in odd numbered years for 140 days, she noted. This year they passed 1454 bills for the Governor’s consideration, of which he signed 1286, vetoed 42, and allowed 163 to pass without signing.

The Budget is the most important business, and the two-year budget was set at $209.4 billion, an increase of 3.6%. $41.2 billion of that was for public education, and $19.9 billion for higher education.

Transportation was funded at $23.1 billion, and for the first time all gas tax money will go to road.

Tax cuts were passed, but the Homestead Exemption increase requires voter approval in November.

Healthcare was a major issue, she said, and although an additional $1.7 billion was allocated for Medicaid, due to population growth, the state continues to refuse to accept $100 billion available from the federal government.

House Bill 18 and last session’s House Bill 5 provided high school graduation choices, and Hernandez worked to make sure it included multilingual information packets and information on these choices.

Open Carry of firearms was also an issue for this Legislature, and two bills resulted. They are known as Open Carry and Campus Carry. Open Carry will take effect January 1, 2016 and basically changes the “concealed” nature of today’s firearms carry bill, to an open arrangement. House Bill 910 requires the gun to be holstered.

At this point, Constable Chris Diaz and Deputy Lt. F. Taylor demonstrated various holster types, and discussed their advantages. Hernandez pointed out that businesses can post signs excluding Open Carry firearms on their premises.

Campus Carry will take effect August 2016 for 4 year colleges, and August 2017 for community colleges, and CHL licensed holders will be allowed to have guns on campus, but in a concealed only fashion.

Border Security was discussed, but Hernandez said no effective program accompanied the $800 million funding.

Hernandez passed a number of bills strengthening and simplifying law enforcement procedures.

She established a Texas Women Veterans Program to help these transition back into civilian life.

Sen. Garcia said that 37 of her bills passed, including a revenge pornography bill, a study of homeless veterans, a veterans court jurisdiction expansion, on-line training for deputy registrars for voting. She helped stop the repeal of the Dream Act.

HARRIS COUNTY PLANS $848m BOND VOTE IN NOVEMBER

Harris County voters will face another bond election at the ballot box this November. Harris County commissioners are finalizing the language and amounts on four measures that will be on the ballot seeking voter approval.

The total bond package is expected to be $848 million dollars. Of this, $700 million is set for roads and infrastructure, $64 million for flood control, $60 million for parks, and $24 million to upgrade the animal control facility. Voters will get to choose on each measure, Judge Ed Emmett said.

Budget director William Jackson pointed out that these bonds are essentially loans to the county, and will be issued over the next seven years, not all at once.

The county is currently paying back previous bonds, at the rate of $100 million per year and the new bonds would just supplant paid off debt, he said.

Judge Emmett said that the bonds are needed to keep up with population growth, which has seen 750,000 new residents in unincorporated Harris County since 2000. This growth requires new government-funded roads and infrastructure, he said, to catch up with projects and “in anticipation of further growth.”

Emmett emphasized that the bond issues will not result in a tax increase.

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New Nature Trail opens in Hermann Brown Park

SPEAKING AT THE NATURE WALK RIBBON CUTTING were City Councilman Robert Gallegos, Pastor Robert Dixon, Jr., Congressman Gene Green, HPD Captain Greg Fremin, and Houston City Parks Director Joe Turner. The trailhead leads away at left, behind the speakers.

SPEAKING AT THE NATURE WALK RIBBON CUTTING were City Councilman Robert Gallegos, Pastor Robert Dixon, Jr., Congressman Gene Green, HPD Captain Greg Fremin, and Houston City Parks Director Joe Turner. The trailhead leads away at left, behind the speakers.

HOUSTON – A new Nature Walk Trail was officially opened last Saturday, as part of the development of Hermann Brown Park.

The ceremony was held beside North Shore Community Fellowship of Faith Church. Entrance to the walking trail is gained from their parking lot until a new entry off Maxey Road is completed.

Parks Director Joe Turner explained that his department won a $20,000 grant to develop the trail, in a nationwide competition sponsored by the Walt Disney Company and the National Recreation and Park Association.

The walking trail is a half-mile loop through a forested area, featuring shade areas, seating, tree stools, a pollinator garden, memorial grove, and education station.

Also participating in the opening ceremony were students from Furr High School, and members of the church congregation and Mrs. Dixon, Sr.

Galena Park Amendments: PONDER WINS JUDGMENT AGAINST CITY; APPEAL OR ELECTION TO BE CONSIDERED AT MEETING AUG. 20

GALENA PARK – The city learned on Monday that the judge of the 270th Judicial Court, Judge Brent Gamble, had granted a Summary Judgment in favor of the plaintiff, Barry Ponder, and ordered his proposed four amendments to be on the ballot at the next election.

The original lawsuit was filed by Ponder in January 2015, seeking to force the city to place four Charter Amendments on the ballot in the May 2015 election.

Ponder had secured over 614 signatures of registered voters, to place the amendments on the ballot. City Secretary Mayra Gonzales had certified that at least 492 of the signatures were valid, and wrote to Ponder, in care of the Citizens for a Better Galena Park, on Oct. 1, 2014.

In spite of that certification, and the petitions that were signed, the City Council decided to propose their own 18 amendments for voters to consider, instead of Ponder’s original four. They set up a Charter Commission to draft these amendments, which they subsequently adopted.

Ponder then filed suit against the mayor, the council, the city manager, the city secretary, the city attorney, and the city in general. This lawsuit and countersuits by the city dragged on, and the 18 amendments appeared on the November ballot, and were all defeated.

Ponder’s suit claimed that the city and council had “arbitrarily rejected the election petition.” It also claimed that Councilman Simms had illegally benefitted from health insurance amounting to $167,475, and that city manager Robert Pruett had exhibited racism in his official capacity.  These claims were disputed in a countersuit. EDITORS NOTE: These claims were subsequently removed in an amended filing by Ponder’s attorney.

Ponder’s amendments, which were not on the ballot, called for the following:

#1. City departments would be administered through the Mayor.

#2. The Mayor’s signature would be required for hiring and firing in the fire department, the fire marshal, and the police chief.

#3. Voters could initiate a referendum or recall, on ordinances.

#4. Other measures would strengthen the Mayor’s authority.

The Galena Park City Commission (Council) has called two special meetings to deal with this court order for Summary Judgment. The first meeting, in Executive Session (non-public) will be Thursday, August 20 at 4:30 p.m. in City Hall. The second meeting, open to the public, is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. at City Hall. to announce legal action, or call for the election.

Corps of Engineers report says Toxic Waste Pits can stay, with cap

Waste Pits under this containment cap are no more dangerous to the Public’s health, than if an attempt is made to excavate and remove the toxic waste, according to the new report by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Waste Pits under this containment cap are no more dangerous to the Public’s health, than if an attempt is made to excavate and remove the toxic waste, according to the new report by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Residents along the San Jacinto River, and environmental activists will be disappointed in a report issued Monday, Aug. 10th by the Army Corps of Engineers.

They were expecting the report to clearly indicate the need to remove the waste pits and toxins they contained, but instead the report was ambivalent at best, saying that dredging and removal posed as much of a risk to health as leaving the wastes under a secure, well maintained membrane cap.

At the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who are charged with cleaning up Superfund Sites, including the so-called Toxic Waste Pits in the San Jacinto River, the Corps conducted a thorough study of six varied remediation schemes ranging from containing and capping the site, to partial removal, to complete removal of the toxic materials. These toxic materials on the site include dioxins, and other carcinogens with the potential to affect human health. The toxins are contained in a sludge, or sediment that was deposited on the site, from barges filled with waste from paper mills, around 1965 and later.

The EPA has identified Potential Responsible Parties as McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp., Waste Management, and International Paper. These so-called PRPs were responsible for constructing the current membrane and rock containment cap now over the waste site, and they have argued that this is all that is required to safely isolate the toxic wastes.

However, the Harris County Attorney, Vince Ryan, and his assistant attorney Rock Owen, have sued the companies in court for damages and to clean up the site. They won a judgement against McGinnes and Waste Management for $29.4 million dollars, but International Paper was excluded from the settlement by a jury. The county is now appealing the ruling on this third company.

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Report Card gives Galveston Bay a “C”

Galveston Bay Report Card Identifies Highs and Lows of Bays Health

La Porte, Texas – The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) and the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) today announced the first-ever Galveston Bay Report Card on the health of the Bay. This is the first time researchers have graded the Bays overall health, and some of the results are concerning.

GBF spent a year gathering input from thousands of local residents and stakeholders to determine what people want to know about the health of Galveston Bay. As a result, HARC analyzed data and trends on the topics of Water Quality, Pollution Events & Sources, Wildlife, Habitat, Human Health Risks, and Coastal Change.

The combined grade for all six categories is a C, which the report card describes as adequate for now. The Bays most significant challenges are pollution, declines in habitat acreage and some shellfish species, and the impacts of sea level rise. Some of the issues that have been identified are due to human activities that can be prevented. Others are more complex and will require cooperation and planning on both the local and regional levels.

“We are not in crisis mode yet, but we will be if we don’t take better care of our beloved Galveston Bay,” said GBF President Bob Stokes. “We hope this report card will serve as a wake-up call and prompt people to think about how their actions can impact the Bay.”

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San Jacinto College Board calls for bond referendum of $425 million

PASADENA, Texas — In an effort to continue to meet the demand of the region’s workforce, and to support students as they transition to four-year colleges and universities or directly enter the workforce, the San Jacinto College Board of Trustees unanimously voted to call for a bond referendum for the Nov. 2015 election.

Voters within the San Jacinto College District will vote on the issuance of $425 million in general obligation bonds needed to prepare students to live and work in the community. Proposed projects include state-of-the-art facilities to train students and workers in the petrochemical, energy, engineering, computers, and technology sectors; a new welcome center providing a “one-stop shop” for student support services such as admission, financial aid, and counseling; new culinary and cosmetology facilities; and additional classroom facilities across the district. Nine buildings will be renovated – most of which are more than 30 years old – which will provide updated space for early college high school and dual credit programs, as well as more relevant, efficient, and technically updated instructional space for employees and students. Additionally, the funding will provide for security, access, and safety upgrades throughout all facilities and significant infrastructure upgrades and replacements for systems at the end of their useful life.

“San Jacinto College brings great value to our region,” said Board Chairman Dan Mims. “This bond referendum will allow us to continue to be a leader in the Gulf Coast region. The area is experiencing growth and expansion, as well as a retiring workforce, so it is imperative that we continue to meet the changing needs of our industry partners, while also helping students realize their earnings and career potential by completing their certificate or associate degree.”

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Rep. Ana Hernandez reviews the 84th Legislative session

STATE REPRESENTATIVE ANA HERNANDEZ

STATE REPRESENTATIVE ANA HERNANDEZ

The featured speaker at last Friday’s North Channel Chamber luncheon was State Representative Ana Hernandez, who represents the 143rd District in Texas. Her district covers part of Houston, Channelview, Galena Park, and Jacinto City. She serves on the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, and on the House Committee on Pensions. She is currently serving her fifth full term.

Ana reported that a change of leadership in this session led to a more friendly and cooperative atmosphere, and she thought much was accomplished.
The Legislature approved a $209.4 billion biennial budget, improved funding for roads, and an additional $1.5 billion for local schools, including $130 million for Pre-K programs.

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San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Hellyer earns ACCT award

San Jacinto College Chancellor, Dr. Brenda Hellyer. (Photo by Andrea Vasquez/San Jacinto College)

San Jacinto College Chancellor, Dr. Brenda Hellyer. (Photo by Andrea Vasquez/San Jacinto College)

PASADENA, Texas – The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) has named San Jacinto College Chancellor, Dr. Brenda Hellyer, its Western Region CEO awardee.

“Since she was appointed Chancellor six years ago, Dr. Hellyer has transformed our College and focused employees on the mission of improving student success,” said Mr. Dan Mims, Chairman of the San Jacinto College Board of Trustees. “As we move students successfully through the education process, and they walk across that stage as college graduates, the community as a whole benefits. Much of that success is due to the transformational leader we have in Dr. Brenda Hellyer.”

Dr. Hellyer began her affiliation with San Jacinto College as a community volunteer. She served on the inaugural Board of Directors of the San Jacinto College Foundation before being named executive director of the Foundation. She went on to become chief financial officer and transitioned into the role of chancellor in May of 2009.

One of her first priorities as chancellor was to work with the Board of Trustees to define the mission, vision, and values of the College. Over the last six years, her leadership has moved the College to an Achieving the Dream Leader College and an institution that has been recognized twice by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program as one of the top 150 community colleges in the nation.

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