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North Channel Star

Local resident reports on hazardous community problem

An 18-wheeler truck with hazardous cargo parks within 30 feet of children’s swimming pool. The pool can be observed at the back right side. (Submitted Photo)
An 18-wheeler truck with hazardous cargo parks within 30 feet of children’s swimming pool. The pool can be observed at the back right side. (Submitted Photo)

Dear Editor North Channel Star:

I would like to inform you of a safety and health concern that our entire neighborhood is fighting about with the City of Houston. They have almost completed the construction of a Stripe truck stop in our neighborhood. We as a neighborhood were not consulted or informed of this business until after construction had started. We have over 500 family homes in our neighborhood. I have contacted every one of them and nobody approves of this truck stop. There are many concerns including but not limited to increase in crime rate, increase in drug trafficking, prostitution, air pollution, noise pollution, flooding and mostly traffic safety.

According to the Air Alliance Houston, our area has an increased cancer risk due to particulates from trucks and ships. Having a truck stop within 30 feet of where children play is no help. When it rains the people near the truck stop have water within a few inches of flooding their homes. The increased cemented area will increase this threat. Trucks will be parked within 20 feet of back yards with their motors running all night. This cannot be helpful to these working people trying to get a good night’s sleep, I do not believe that any air, noise pollution or flooding study was performed before the city approved this construction.

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COMMUNITY PROFILE: Taggy Hall wants to win $25K for Precinct2gether

MRS. ERONIA “TAGGY” HALL
MRS. ERONIA “TAGGY” HALL

GALENA PARK – Taggy Hall wants your vote, and she is not afraid to ask for it, at community meetings and chamber events. She is the president of the Galena Manor Civic Club, which meets monthly at the Churchill Community Center on Hunter Street in Galena Manor.

But she is also a community activist, and she sees an opportunity to help the Precinct 2 organization for seniors, Precinct2gether.

She is competing with four other women, in a contest to get the most votes and win a prize of $25,000 from TexanPlus, a local Medicare Advantage health plan organization that has teamed with the Astros baseball club to sponsor this competition. Whichever of the five women gets the most votes between now and Sept. 12 will win the prize, and her designated charity will get the money.

Taggy wants you to vote at www.texanpluschampions.com/vote.html. You can vote once every day until the deadline.

Eronia “Taggy” Hall considers teaching her life’s passion. So after retiring from the Houston Independent School District after 34 years of service, there was perhaps no better way to spend her golden years than teaching seniors. And that’s precisely what she did.

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State Capitol Highlights: Grand jury indicts governor on counts

By Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — A Travis County grand jury on Aug. 15 indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.

Count I alleges Perry, on or about June 14, 2013, intended to harm Rosemary Lehmberg, Travis County district attorney and chief of the state’s Public Integrity Unit, by intentionally or knowingly misusing public property in withholding funding approved by the Texas Legislature for the operation of the Public Integrity Unit.

Count II alleges Perry by means of coercion and in his official capacity as a public servant threatened to veto legislation funding the Public Integrity Unit unless Lehmberg resigned as district attorney.

Lehmberg was arrested for drunken driving in April 2013. She served a short jail sentence, publicly apologized, underwent counseling and returned to her elected post as district attorney and chief of the Public Integrity Unit, a division of the district attorney’s office that investigates and prosecutes criminal activity involving state government and state government officials.

Lehmberg refused to resign. Perry reacted with a line-item veto of the funding approved for the Public Integrity Unit ($7.5 million) in the state’s 2014-2015 general appropriations bill, SB 1. Perry explained the veto this way: “Despite the otherwise good work the Public Integrity Unit’s employees, I cannot in good conscience support continued State funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence . This unit is in no other way held accountable to state taxpayers, except through the State budgetary process. I therefore object to and disapprove of this appropriation.”

Mary Anne Wiley, general counsel for Perry, issued a statement saying, “The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution. We will continue to aggressively defend the governor’s lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail.”

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Keeney’s Korner: Change is in the air for Texans, UT, and college football as 2014 season nears

mike keeneyBy Mike Keeney

“Change” is definitely the word in these parts when it comes to the 2014 football season.

Houston Texans fans got the change they asked for when longtime head coach Gary Kubiak was fired last December and replaced by former Penn State, and Bill Belichick acolyte, Bill O’Brien in January. University of Texas fans got the change they clamored for when Mack Brown stepped down after 16 years leading the Longhorns and was replaced by former Louisville head football coach Charlie Strong.

And college football fans finally got the change they had been asking for when the highly unpopular Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was done away with and the College Football Playoff was born. The new system will pit the top four rated teams chosen by a selection committee made up of individuals with coaching experience, student-athletes, collegiate administrators and current athletic directors. The committee will choose the top four teams for the playoff, rank them (1-4) and assign them to the semifinal games. The selection committee will choose the four national semifinalists based on strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents and other factors.

This year’s semifinal games will be held on Jan. 1 and will be the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. The No. 1 and No. 4 seed will meet in the Rose Bowl, while the No. 2 and No. 3 seed will meet in the Sugar Bowl. Each year, the national semifinals will rotate among those two bowls and the Fiesta, Orange, Cotton and Peach bowls in coming years.

The inaugural national championship game will be played on Monday, Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium (formerly known as Jerry World). Read on to see who yours truly thinks will be the four teams to be this year’s semifinalists and the overall national champion, along with a number of other predictions.

While University of Texas fans are hoping their team will be making the trek to Arlington for the national title game, they might be getting a bit ahead of themselves. The ‘Horns still have some holes in their team, but I have a feeling UT fans will like what they see from their new head coach. The no-nonsense Strong laid down the law right off the bat and dismissed seven players from the team during the spring and summer for violating team rules. I have a feeling Texas will be a more disciplined team in 2014 and will be much better on defense. The key to how far they go will center on quarterback David Ash, who missed a majority of the 2013 season with a concussion. He followed that injury up by breaking his foot during spring drills, but has been cleared for the upcoming season. The 6-4 Ash has talent and speed and if healthy would be a huge plus for the UT offense, which should field a strong running game led by the powerful Malcolm Brown and the speedy and elusive Johnathan Gray, who is coming off an Achilles injury but has also been cleared to play this season.

Texas should be in the Big 12 mix, but it appears Oklahoma and Baylor are the class of the league heading into the season. Bob Stoops’ Sooners finished off the 2013 season in impressive season by blasting Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl was a coming out party for quarterback Trevor Knight and he should be ready for a big season in 2014. The offense is loaded and so is the defense as nine starters return this year.

Scoring won’t be a problem for Art Briles’ Baylor Bears, who won the Big 12 last year and return a pretty fair signal caller in Bryce Petty, who set a school passing record last season. He has plenty of weapons to call on once again, but the big question in Waco will be how much improved will the Baylor defense be? That unit was exposed in the Fiesta Bowl by Central Florida and the Bears will face much better offenses than CFU with the likes of OU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas on their schedule.

Not only will Baylor be looking to win a second straight league title, but they will also be opening a new stadium, named after former Houston Astros owner, and major Baylor contributor Drayton McLane Jr.

Please read below for how one person thinks the major conferences will shake out this year.

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State issues annual School Ratings

tea-logo-header-2Local districts get passing grades in new reporting system

The Texas Education Agency issued its report card for schools and districts last Friday, with almost all districts in this area getting a passing grade.

The ratings were based on new criteria, and also results were stated in a new simplified method. Either a school “Met Standard” or “Improvement Required”.

Schools were rated in four Accountability categories:

1. Student Achievement, based on STAAR test scores for the year.

2. Student Progress, in subjects like math and reading from year to year. (High Schools were not graded in this category, because they did not take STAAR tests last year.)

3. Closing Performance Gaps, or emphasis on high level achievement of the lowest performing students.

4. Postsecondary Readiness, or graduation rates and diploma plans.

In this area, school districts such as Galena Park, Channelview, and Sheldon all had every school meet the Pass category, or “Met Standard.”

However, Houston ISD had one school that didn’t, Furr High School, which was deficient in Postsecondary Readiness, graduation rates and diploma plans.

The state’s third largest district, Cypress-Fairbanks, earned the honor of being the biggest district in the state in which all campuses met the “pass” standard.

Although there were four accountability categories, in general they were all based on STAAR test scores. If a school did not pass in one of these four categories, it was listed as “improvement required” and this affected the district rating.

Districts complained that the rating system was very complex, and therefore difficult to find out how to improve their scores.

Channelview ISD Statement on Ratings:

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Harris County Attorney Ryan explains county government

vince ryan chamberJACINTO CITY – The North Channel Chamber’s monthly luncheon took on the aspect of a classroom last week, as Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan explained the working of his office, and expanded his thoughts to include city and county government in general.

Ryan is well experienced in both, having served for many years as assistant county attorney under Mike Driscoll, and previous to that as a Houston city councilman.

Ryan said that the duty of his office is to represent all County employees and offices in Civil Matters before the courts.

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Another Big Tube transported on Clinton Drive

LAST TUESDAY, August 5, Kinder-Morgan transported a second Splitter Tower or Tube, down Clinton Drive in Galena Park, from the old Brown & Root dock out onto Clinton, and then to the site of their new plant at the east end of Clinton. Due to the extreme height of the tube, 25 feet with truck bed, the wires crossing the street had to be lifted out of the way, as can be seen in the photos at right and above. K-M chose to move the tube at about 5 p.m. when traffic from the plants was at a minimum. K-M said that they plan to move a third tube, but not for about one year.
LAST TUESDAY, August 5, Kinder-Morgan transported a second Splitter Tower or Tube, down Clinton Drive in Galena Park, from the old Brown & Root dock out onto Clinton, and then to the site of their new plant at the east end of Clinton. Due to the extreme height of the tube, 25 feet with truck bed, the wires crossing the street had to be lifted out of the way, as can be seen in the photos at right and above. K-M chose to move the tube at about 5 p.m. when traffic from the plants was at a minimum. K-M said that they plan to move a third tube, but not for about one year.

Environmental specialist discusses sickness causes

Dr. Winnie Hamilton, CIP speaker, with chart showing how many factors are involved in environmentally causes sickness.
Dr. Winnie Hamilton, CIP speaker, with chart showing how many factors are involved in environmentally causes sickness.

GALENA PARK – The CIP group (Community Industry Partners) heard from Environmental Scientist Winnie Hamilton at their monthly meeting last Thursday at the Baggett Center.

Hamilton is Baylor College of Medicine’s Director of Environmental Health Service.

She presented an explanation of how researchers look for links between air pollution and health effects, and presented facts on previous and current studies.

Although many citizens want to draw a causal relationship between plant emissions and high cancer rates, she said that in reality the situation is much more complex than that, and many studies do not support this theory.

She cited a recent study comparing illnesses in Pasadena and Bellaire, where poisons in the air are different, but sickness rates and types are similar.

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EPA HEARING IN GALENA PARK

SARA ZARATE, a resident of Galena Park, testifies to the EPA committee about the high incident of cancer cases on her street, near Industrial Street. She attributed the sickness to pollutants that come from adjacent refineries, and said that industry had an obligation to clean up the air, and to pay for medical bills for those who are sick in the community.
SARA ZARATE, a resident of Galena Park, testifies to the EPA committee about the high incident of cancer cases on her street, near Industrial Street. She attributed the sickness to pollutants that come from adjacent refineries, and said that industry had an obligation to clean up the air, and to pay for medical bills for those who are sick in the community.

Air Pollution testimony presents 2 sides

The U.S. EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency, is planning to issue new guidelines for the 149 petroleum refineries in the country, to reduce pollution from emissions that affect surrounding neighborhoods.

EPA is holding two all-day hearings nationally, one in California and the other in Galena Park, Texas. This hearing took place at the Baggett Community Center on Tuesday of this week, and an EPA committee heard testimony from about 100 persons, that included Congressmen, industry spokespersons, environmental activists, and ordinary citizens that live near the refineries.

EPA director Fred Thompson told the audience that the proposed rules would add emission control requirements for storage tanks, flares and coking units. Also, the proposal would require monitoring of air concentrations at the fenceline of refineries, to test for toxic air pollutants such as benzene, toluene and xylene and volatile organic compounds that exceed health standards. The rules in particular are aimed at releases during SSMs, or startups, shutdowns, and malfunctions.

Speaking for industry interests were Congressmen Gene Green and Pete Olson, as well as representatives of industry organizations API and AFPM.

Green said that the new rules would burden industry with high costs and unnecessary reporting, and were redundant with current regulations.

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First Baptist Church of Jacinto City celebrating 70 years

jacinto city churchJACINTO CITY – Remaining in the same location since the beginning, the First Baptist Church of Jacinto City (FBCJC) will celebrate its 70th anniversary on August 17, 2014. Located at 10701 Wiggins, the church and its members have seen many changes throughout the community but it has remained strong and committed to presenting the message of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

With the first meeting on August 6, 1944, and housed in a tent, a church was formed with the name of Universal Baptist Church. With an initial membership of 117, the last charter member on the roll died in 2008. The first building was completed in 1945 and served as the sanctuary, office space and classrooms. This building now serves as a worship center for a Hispanic Congregation, Iglesia Bautista Resurreccion, and the church offices.

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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. (more…)