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North Channel Star

Houston, Harris County appoint ‘Recovery Czars’ to lead relief from Covid19 crisis

HARRIS COUNTY – April 20, 2020 — County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Monday selected State Representative Armando Walle to lead the COVID19 pandemic relief and recovery effort on her behalf. As Harris County COVID19 Relief and Recovery Czar, Rep. Walle is tasked with leading the effort to drive the region’s economic recovery. He will join the Houston relief and recovery Czar in this effort and jointly they will convene community and government stakeholders as necessary.

“State Rep. Walle is uniquely positioned to build consensus across Harris County’s diverse communities to help our region emerge from the COVID-19 disaster. As a leader in the state Legislature on issues of health, safety, and the economic well being of families, he’s a champion for the important priorities that we want to make sure are in the forefront of this relief and recovery effort,” Judge Hidalgo said. “Like the rest of the world, Harris County will not be the same when this crisis abates. But with inclusive, fast and coordinated planning, we will build an economy and a social services network that gives every resident the tools they need to thrive once again.”

A Harris County native, Rep. Walle is a graduate of the University of Houston School of Law and has served in the Texas Legislature since 2009. Rep. Walle serves on the Business and Industry Committee, serves as Vice Chair of the Land & Resource Management Committee, and serves on the Federalism & Fiscal Responsibility Committee.

“While we are in the midst of a public health crisis, it is critical for our decision-making to be driven by data and the judgment of our public health experts on how those decisions impact the people of the greater Houston region,” Rep. Walle said Monday. “We need to work together on an inclusive recovery that responsibly ensures the health and economic well being of the people of Harris County. We need to save lives, and also save livelihoods.”

Rep. Walle will work with a wide variety of regional stakeholders in this effort, including private sector, philanthropy, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, and local governments.

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Galena Park I.S.D. names John Moore lone finalist for Superintendent Position

Dr. John C. Moore

On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, Galena Park I.S.D. Board of Trustees announced Dr. John C. Moore as the lone finalist in the District’s superintendent search.

“I am thrilled and honored to be selected as the lone finalist for superintendent of Galena Park I.S.D., and I look forward to continuing the great work started by Dr. Angi Williams. My objective is, and has always been, to become a superintendent in Galena Park I.S.D. who inspires students, staff and the community to grow beyond what anyone believes is achievable. Dr. Williams has led this District extremely well for the past nine years, and is a well-respected educational leader throughout Texas and the nation,” remarked Dr. Moore.

Dr. Moore began his educational career as a teacher in Calcasieu Parish School, Sulphur, Louisiana in 1990. In 1991, he moved to Houston, Texas and became a teacher at W.C. Cunningham Middle School. During his tenure in Galena Park I.S.D. he has spent 29 years as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and associate superintendent, all in Galena Park I.S.D.

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A MESSAGE From STATE REP. ANA HERNANDEZ

Dear Friend,

The coronavirus pandemic is overwhelming, and one of the most excruciating parts for many people is the feeling of utter helplessness in the face of widespread suffering and hardship. Though staying inside and staying healthy are the most crucial ways to stave off this outbreak, there are many ways you can help your community while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

It is important that we take care of each other during these stressful and uncertain times. Several nonprofit organizations could use your time and money to make sure vulnerable populations are cared for during the pandemic. Below, we have listed information about how you can support some of our frontline organizations through their COVID-19 response.

If you can’t contribute financially there are many ways to help fellow Texans during this crisis.

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Jacinto City moves May Election

JACINTO CITY – The city council met at their regular time last Thursday evening, and on the Agenda was an item to consider moving the May 2nd Municipal Election to a different date.

Governor Abbott had sent instructions to all municipalities to consider moving their election date to November, due to concerns about people congregating at the polls during the Covid-19 virus pandemic and subsequent lockdown. He strongly advised this action, with possible discipline if it was not followed.

The council voted to move the election, but did not specify a date, only that it would be in the future. City Manager Lon Squyres said it might be in July, when a run-off election is scheduled in the county, or November.

The council meeting was unusual, because it took place in the new police building, with all participants observing “social distancing” and the public participating by video conference.

Some elections are still scheduled May 2, including the Barbers Hill bond referendum, and Mont Belvieu municipal offices.

Harris County Expands COVID-19 Testing

One of 14 Drive-thru test sites in Harris County, at Forest Brook MS

Mobile Units to Reach All Precincts, Conduct 200 Tests Per Day

HARRIS COUNTY – County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced last Monday, April 13, 2020, that two new Harris County Public Health (HCPH) mobile units will provide drive-through testing for COVID-19, adding up to 200 tests per day to the county’s current testing capacity. Each pop-up site, which will rotate locations across the precincts starting Tuesday, will be able to make up to 100 drive-through tests per day. Additionally, testing capacity at HCPH’s two existing stationary sites will increase to 500 tests per location, per day, starting Wednesday.

These two units are in addition to 13 Drive-Thru sites around the county, both public and private. These include 2 Harris County sites, 2 City of Houston sites, 4 free sites by UMMC, and 3 sites by MD Medical.

“Until we make testing accessible to everyone who needs it, we will not be able to fully tackle this disease in Harris County,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “These efforts are a key step forward, but they’re not enough. We have to be nimble. We have to reach underserved communities and expand our ability to help folks identify if they are sick, and isolate immediately.”

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EMS is ‘Front Line’ against Covid-19

This accident occurred on US Hwy 90 Westbound at Janacek Rd. at 12:38 pm on April 6, 2020. One patient endured entrapment, calling into play an array of first responders, equipment and subsequently a Life Flight was made to rescue a mother. Call volume overall for Harris County ESD #5, Crosby’s ambulance service, decreased since the beginning of the quarantine. But motor vehicle accidents remained consistent.

HARRIS COUNTY – Crews of First Responders are thrust into the front lines of the war on COVID-19, and deserve recognition for their sacrifice. EMS technicians must answer calls that might include virus victims, and therefore they train and prepare for this contingency, as well as their normal emergency calls.

An example is Harris County ESD #5, Crosby’s ambulance service. They are medical troopers working with local fire departments and law enforcement for the safety of our community.

Asking Medical Chief and Director of Operations Christy Graves, CCEMT-P, how are treatments and procedures changing nowadays will get this response: “So, we are having to maintain our normal emergency response work and response to sick and possible COVID-19 positive patients. We have had to stay alert as well as change our protocols often, sometimes daily, in order to provide the best care for all citizens during this endemic. This includes the PPE we wear to protect everybody because of how close we interview the patients. Obviously, we have to touch people to provide emergency care. We have developed very stringent guidelines to do this including limiting the number of care providers inside the ambulance with patients. We are no longer allowing extra riders including family members to increase safety. The driver of the ambulance is also completely sealed from the rear. This creates a closed ventilation system to help in decontamination of the ambulances.”

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San Jacinto River Coalition holds virtual meeting

Jackie Young Medcalf on
THEA video report.

HIGHLANDS – The San Jacinto River Coalition and its sister organization, THEA held its monthly meeting last Tuesday night by video instead of its usual in-person meet.

The group had skipped its March meeting due to the scheduled wedding of its president, Jackie Young (now Young Medcalf). Then they were faced with the inability to have its April meeting at the community center, due to the lockdown of county facilities because of the Covid-19 flu epidemic. Undaunted, Ms. Medcalf recorded a report which included news of the SJR Waste Pits, the Superfund Jones Road site in Cypress, and even her wedding.

A major question on the minds of many of the Coalition members, and others in the community, is whether the Covid-19 lockdown will affect the schedule of removal of the waste pits. Jackie has discussed this with the EPA project manager, Gary Baumgarten, and reports that work is continuing at the EPA, the engineering consultants, and even on-site remedial repair work. There is no indication of a major delay in the milestone dates of the project, he said.

On-site work is in the river just beyond the north edge of the cap, where the storm Imelda caused erosion of the river bed. Contractors are repairing and restoring much of the material that washed away, to protect the cap. The company in charge of the onsite work has submitted an addendum to their Health and Safety work plan to the EPA, indicating additional protection for their workers from the Covid-19 virus.

THEA’s short term goal is to protect the public and the environment from any contamination from the toxins in the waste pits. Their long-term goal, Jackie says, is to continue work on removal and relocation and storage of the dioxins and other toxic materials.

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Constable Diaz responds to lawsuit

Pct. 2 Constable Chris Diaz

Accused of Retaliation

The following article was submitted by Constable Chris Diaz:

On March 12, 2020, Harris County Precinct Two Constable Christopher Diaz moved to dismiss as baseless a federal lawsuit in which the plaintiffs have alleged Constable Diaz violated plaintiff’s rights under the First Amendment.

Constable Diaz’s motion to dismiss demonstrates the plaintiffs, several former employees and one current employee, did not engage in any constitutionally protected conduct and, further, there is no connection between any plaintiff’s allegedly protected conduct and a complained of, actionable employment decision. In fact, several plaintiffs have failed to even allege Constable Diaz had any direct involvement in the plaintiffs’ reassignment, discipline, or discharge at all.

Precinct Two’s records, available to the public under the Public Information Act, further refute each plaintiff’s baseless accusations and demonstrate the following: (more…)

MAY 2nd ELECTIONS MOVED TO NOVEMBER

COVID-19 Virus causes Galena Park, Galena Park ISD to reset local elections; Jacinto City to follow

HARRIS COUNTY – Following the proclamation of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, allowing the rescheduling of voting, several local elections scheduled for May 2nd have been postponed and moved to November 3rd, the official uniform election day for other offices.

The governor issued his directive to keep people from congregating at the polls, and to minimize the possibility that the COVID-19 virus would be spread to voters.

Galena Park took their action in a virtual board meeting Monday night, held by computer from each Commissioner’s home. The city had previously planned on holding the election as a “drive-up” at Baggett Community Center and City Hall. This would have allowed voters to cast ballots from their car, to avoid close proximity with others. However, the city decided it would be safer to have the election in November, in the normal manner, according to City Attorney Robert Collins. Voters will choose between 3 candidates for Mayor, and several Commissioner seats.

Galena Park ISD also voted to move their Trustee election to November. The vote was by remote means to keep everyone safe from the virus.

Jacinto City has not officially moved their election to November as of press time. The May 2nd election was to take place at the Town Center. However, City Manager Lon Squyres said that the agenda for the April 9th City Council meeting included a discussion and vote on moving the election to November, and it is expected to pass.

Another entity in the area that has scheduled an election is the Barbers Hill ISD. They plan to ask voters to approve a $277 million dollar bond issue for new schools and related expenditures. They have indicated they will continue to have the election on May 2nd, and voters will cast their ballot at the high school, perhaps in a “drive-up” mode. They also are encouraging everyone to use mail-in ballots if possible.

Galena Park ISD issues statement on unprecedented action

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Congresswoman and Jacinto City host COVID-19 testing

L to R: Dr. Joseph Varon, Mayor Ana Diaz (white shirt) Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (at podium), Constable Chris Diaz and not pictured, Constance Jones (Texas Coalition Black Democrats). Wearing protective masks and keeping a safe distance apart from each other as each one gave their advice as to how to prevent the spread of the virus. (Photo by Allan Jamail)

By Allan Jamail

JACINTO CITY – Monday, April 6, 2020 — Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and the City of Jacinto City hosted the United Memorial Medical Center’s COVID-19 virus testing. The testing of 190 people was conducted at the Jacinto City Town Center which was aimed at testing First Responders and seniors over 60 years of age.

North Channel Star writer Allan Jamail asked about the cost for the tests and both UMMC President Syed Mohuiddin and Congresswoman Lee said the testing is free.

City Manager Lon Squyres upon learning of the availability to be able to bring testing to the city activated all city departments to work with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) to accomplish the testing. He said, “I’m so glad for this opportunity to make our first responders comfortable when going home to their families after serving on the front lines in our communities.” First responders tested were from Jacinto City, Galena Park, Houston and several constable precincts.

Lon Squyres, City Manager (in foreground) making sure everyone that will be tested keeps a safe distance apart while waiting in line at the Jacinto City Town Center. (Photo by Allan Jamail)

Mayor Ana Diaz and city officials were at the site to oversee the one day event. Mayor Diaz said, “We’re so appreciative of Congresswoman Lee for her bringing UMMC here for testing of our Police and Fire Department personnel, area seniors and anyone with COVID-19 symptoms.”

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SAY “YES” TO CENSUS, BE COUNTED

Montrose Bridges over the Southwest Freeway were lighted in Yellow this week to mark CENSUS WEEK.

HARRIS COUNTY – Since 1790, as mandated by the Constitution, Americans have come together every 10 years to be counted. This record of every person residing in the United States is important as it provides the basis for the reapportionment of congressional seats, redistricting, and distribution of over $675 billion in vital annual federal funds to support state, county and community programs across the country. For perspective, it’s estimated that our community lost millions of federal funding because of undercounting. This is important for residents of Harris County. In 2020, let’s make sure everyone counts!

CENSUS 101

By April 1, 2020, every home will receive an invitation to participate in Census 2020. There will be four options to complete: By phone, by mail, in person and, for the first time, online. Respondents will also have the opportunity to complete the census on their mobile device.

YES! TO CENSUS 2020

To ensure we are not overlooked, the City of Houston and Harris County have created the YES! TO CENSUS 2020 campaign, a local initiative inviting families, friends and neighbors to show pride in our communities by responding to the census.

HOW THE CENSUS BENEFITS OUR COMMUNITY

Federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on accurate census statistics like population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors. Our community benefits when we have more clinics, better schools, safe roads, and an expanding workforce. High-quality census data gives community leaders important information needed to make decisions about building community centers, opening businesses, and planning for the future. Standing up and being counted is an important way for individuals to impact where money to build and improve infrastructure is allocated across the U.S. This information is also critical to local disaster and emergency preparedness funding. (more…)