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Posts published in February 2009

Crosby debaters’ winning matches

CROSBY — The local high school debate team maintained a proud tradition on February 14 by winning UIL District Tournament in Policy Debate on home turf.

The Crosby Debate Team has triumphed in District Championships 15 straight times, according to Jason Courville, the Debate Coach of the last six years.

Matthew Malek, a Senior, and Megan Sanchez, a Sophomore, have won three tournaments this year including their victory two weeks ago. Malek with Nick Jennings made it to the State Finals last year, losing out to Bay City by a single judge’s ballot.

The Bay City team then won the State Finals. Last year the B Team, Ronald Flack and Samuel Marshal took third place in State. In 2002 and 2007 Crosby teams won UIL State CX Debate Championships. Also in 2007 a Crosby team placed third in State.

Crosby sent two teams to the District Cross Examination Debate (Policy Debate) where Dayton and Barbers Hill sent three teams each. The topic this year is “The U.S. Federal Government should substantially increase alternative energy incentives with the United States.”

This year and Malek and Sanchez won October 24-25 at Bellaire High School. On October 31 through Nov. 1 they triumphed at Westside High. At Clear Creek on January 31 they again won. Malek went to Dartmouth Debate Camp in Maryland last Summer and Sanchez traveled to Michigan State for a debate camp.

What makes a successful debate coach? When Courville is challenged to defend his course he seems ever ready to win an argument, “Arguments have conclusions, claims and they have warrants – reasons to support the claims and data to support the reasons. If you have a well constructed argument, you also need to have counter arguments and comparisons between the two so. Debate has statistically, proven to increase scores on standardized tests, increase performance on essay parts of tests, and virtually eliminates a drop out rate. It engages those that are not previously focused at school. It’s hard to explain how it changes your personality, delivery and outlook and on how you assess things and how much quicker your processing time is on the back and forth of presentation. I cannot express how transformative it is to participate.”

When asked what drives a debate coach to spend long hours and extra time on weekends to make winning teams, the easy answer is that he hates to lose but the in-depth answer is much closer to an academic ideal, “I don’t reject things out of hand before I really look into them. I have become less trusting of easy ideological answers and I think as I continue to probe deeper it provides stimulus to my students.”

Crosby-Huffman Chamber of Commerce: Installation and Awards Banquet

Presenters and Awards Receipients for the Crosby/Huffman Banquet included the following:

BUSINESS OF THE YEAR was presented by Venita Smith, to ALLIANCE PROPERTIES and Velma Ellison.

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR was presented by Ginessa Schaper to BENNY BECK.

EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR was presented by Traci Dillard, to KIM HARRIS of United Community Credit Union.

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR was presented by Julie Gilbert to TRACI DILLARD of Community Resource Credit Union.

NON-PROFIT OF THE YEAR was presented by Juli Hain to CROSBY CARE and Lori and Keenan Smith.

PRESIDENT’S AWARD was presented by Dr. Ryan Konarik to WENDY BAILEY.

AMADOR LEGACY AWARD was presented by Susan Armstrong to VENITA SMITH of KMCO LLP.

Chamber Awards to leaders in Community

Monument Inn was the scene of the Annual Crosby/Huffman Installation Banquet and Awards Ceremony, held last Friday night, Feb. 20.

The emcee for the evening was Chamber president Ryan Konarik, who kept the evening moving with banter and awards. The spirit of the event was cheerful and upbeat in spite of the economy, perhaps typified by three caricature artists, who cartooned the likeness of chamber members and guests, to their delight. These three artists were sponsored by Mike Godsey, Godsey Insurance Agency.

New and returning board members were sworn in by Judge Tony Polumbo, with the help of Denise Smith from Judge Parrott’s office.

Board members include Mike Amador, Susan Armstrong, Steve Coon, Don Cox, Traci Dillard, Velma Ellison, Julie Gilbert, Juli Hain, Kim Harris, Mike Joseph, Dr. Doug Killian, Dr. Ryan Konarik, Pastor Larry Koslovsky, Ginessa Schaper, Keenan Smith, Venita Smith, John Sparks, Bob Ward, and Lisa Wright.

In his message regarding the state of the Chamber, president Konarik mentioned the struggles and strengths of the organization, and how working together can help you market your business. He emphasized that participation, more than monetary contributions, is the key to using the Chamber successfully.

Konarik welcomed new staff members of the Chamber. He also thanked Don Cox, Jan Cox, Julie Gilbert and Venita Smith for their help in preparing the banquet arrangements.

Chamber awards were presented to these six special people in our Community: Citizen of the Year, Benny Beck; Employee of the Year, Kim Harris; President’s Award, Wendy Bailey; Amador Legacy Award, Venita Smith; Non-Profit of the Year, Crosby Care – Lori Smith (and Keenan Smith); Business of the Year, Alliance Properties – Velma Ellison. Not pictured, Volunteer of the Year, Traci Dillard. Each award was given by a special presenter related to the award, see story.

A silent auction was also held as part of the evening’s events, with a good deal of money raised for the benefit of the chamber. A humorous turn came when one item, a buffalo painting that was not bid on, became an instant live auction item, with great success. In turn, Steve Coon auctioned off live a team for the chamber golf tournament donated by Velma Ellison.

Dressing for retirement

Sure is nice beginning the third month of retirement and not having to dress up each day and make sure my brogans are shined up. Actually I wore Florsheim shoes most of my banking career, but ended up wearing some SAS uglies.

It’s a sight over the years how some executives dress. Have seen them with baby slobber on their shoulder to shoes that looked like they had been out milking before they came to work. Some have no clue as to what a shoe brush does with shoe tops covered in dust.

SAS shoes are ugly as sin but are as comfortable as some of the men’s exotic shoes are tacky. Got one buddy who wears nothing but khaki pants. I asked him once if he had any other colors and he said no.

One of my former bosses used to wear hundred dollar ties every day and silk, I suppose. Have seen the high dollar clothing store van pull up, and the driver walks in the bank with five suits on hangers over his shoulder taking them to the big boss’s office.

With all the free time, one has time to read the New York Times online and read with interest about an article last week about Saks Fifth Avenue. Saks is now stocking off the rack suits for $7000.00. Can you imagine? That is to go with their $1395 sunglasses, slacks for $1195 and jeans for $795. All one needs with those threads are a pair of tacky exotic gator shoes. Is that what they call, “dressed to the nines”?

Have seen people come to work without their belt or with different shoes, buttons buttoned in the wrong hole, and the list goes on. Some even come to work in their house shoes and forgot to put on their dress shoes. That’s as funny as wearing two different colored shoes. One even had their pullover shirt on inside out.

No plans to wear any of the many long sleeve white shirts in the closet. One good thing about them, they will come in handy and that is repelling heat and the ‘skeet’s when working outside and in the garden.

The Mrs. is now into resale stores, especially Blue Bird Circle resale shop in the big city. She got PO’d yesterday when she came home with the granddaughter and showed me one of two casual shirts she bought me. I said one of them looks like it has marijuana leaves all over and I ain’t wearing it. I had to Google marijuana to see how many leaves it has and she was correct… again.

Highlands Chamber installs new board, officers

The new president of the Greater Highlands/Lynchburg Chamber broke tradition this year, and took the Chamber to an evening banquet for their installation cermony.

Stefe Cochran, of PlastiPak, had the dinner and swearing in ceremony at Luna’s Mexican Restaurant in Baytown, and the event was in the evening instead of the usual luncheon.

About 100 guests, board members, officers, and community leaders gathered to hear opening remarks by Pct. 2 County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, a recap of events by outgoing president Jessica Woods, a status report by Jim Strouhal on the Highlands Heritage Museum and Preservation Project, the swearing in ceremony by Judge Mike Parrott, and a welcome and look ahead by the new president, Stefe Cochran.

In her review of the status of
the precinct, Commissioner Garcia said that she was participating in meetings to secure part of the federal stimulus money for projects in the precinct. She had spent the day testifying to a committee that is putting together the request, she said. Other subjects that she knows the Highlands area is interested in are the 8-liners problem, and various road projects and traffic flow. She indicated that she was working with Austin legislators and agencies to bring answers to these problems. She also recently dedicated two more history murals, painted on oil storage tanks along Highway 225 in LaPorte, to further her STARS project.

Jessica Woods spoke about her accomplishments in the two years she has been president of the Chamber, saying 2008 had been a good year. In particular, the Highlands Jamboree had been quite successful, and noted the addition of a Childrens’ Pageant, in conjunction with Parents In Education at Hopper School, had helped. Also, the Chamber has been able to increase the hours of operation of the office, and noted that this Installation Banquet was the first one in the last ten years to be held in the evening, with full attendance.

She recounted the honor of presenting the Terry Davis award this year to Jim Brazzil. Also receiving support from the Chamber were the Boy Scouts, the Cub Scouts and the Highlands Heritage Museum, and the Partners in Education at B. P. Hopper School. She distributed letters from students as an example of this last relationship. She also mentioned that the Board was now at full strength, and that the Highlands Flag was available for sale at the office.

Jim Strouhal said that the restoration of the “Highlands” rail car was moving along, with new wood windows due to be installed this month. More display cases have recently been secured, the book on Interurbans with the history and photos of our rail car is now available for purchase at the Chamber office, and bricks have been ordered for the Memorial Wall in front of the office.

Judge Parrott swore in the new board and officers. These
included the following:

President-Stefe Cochran, Plastipak Packaging; 1st V. Pres.-Kristy Stalling, ReMax; 2nd V. Pres.-Jim Strouhal; Secretary- Kim Harris, United Community Credit Union; Treasurer-Tonya Russell, Woodforest National Bank; Ex-Officio Director-Jessica Woods, Rainbow Jewelry & Loan; Executive Administrator-Staci Neathery.

Also, Board Members Kris Barry, United Way of Baytown Area; Betty Brewer, Charter Member; Weston Cotten, Attorney; Sarah Davis, Stratford Library; David Kostka, Kostka Towing; Sheila McDonald, Capitol Bank; Betty Michalsky; Phillip Morris, Restoration House Church; Mike Nebgen, Awards & Engravings; and C. R. “Dickie” Woods, San Jacinto Services.

In his welcoming remarks, president Stefe Cochran said his goals for the coming year included an increase in membership, more community services, including the United Way, support of Partners In Education (He went so far as to be the Santa Claus at Hopper last year), more scholarships from Jamboree proceeds, and a robust 53rd annual Jamboree under the direction of 1st V. President Kristy Stallings.

Crabb files bills to help VFDs, gun owners

AUSTIN — The committee assignments have been handed out and local legislators have already begun filing bills as part of the 81st Session of the Texas Legislature.

Joe Crabb

Joe Crabb, a Crosby High graduate, is serving his eighth term in the State House. He serves as Vice-Chairman of the Rules and Regulations Committee. He also serves on the Agriculture & Livestock and Energy Resources Committees.

Crabb has authored or co-authored five bills so far this session. Two of the bills, HB 105 and HJR 19 are related to the creating of a Texas Redistricting Commission.

HB 267, which was also coauthored by Baytown’s Wayne Smith, would change the law regarding the interstate sale of firearms, ammunition, reloading components and firearm accessories. Crabb is seeking to remove the restriction that only allows sales from contiguous states. Crabb’s HB 794 would exempt volunteer fire departments from paying certain types of motor fuel taxes. He has also filed a bill, HB272, which would create a state board which would oversee disease control programs aimed at fighting the spread of infectious and communicable diseases including, but not limited to HIV, and Hepatitis strands A,B and C.

Wayne Smith

Smith, who represents Baytown, serves on the County Affairs and Transportation Committees. He has co-authored two bills. The first, HB 632, would require water and utility districts to maintain auxiliary generators to use in the event of a power outage. Through HB 742, Smith wants to provide property tax exemptions for disabled veterans.

Tommy Williams

Williams has served in the Texas Senate since 2003. He serves as chairman of the Administrative Committee. He is also a member of the Education, International Relations and Trade and Finance Committees. He has written 21 bills so far this session. Among the bills are school programs of the disabled, funding for county parks and a bill that would restrict the use of wireless communication devices for drivers under the age of 18.

Williams is also seeking to create a water protection pilot program for the San Jacinto River.

Opinion: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act needed

Rep. Gene Green last week voted in support of H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This legislation will help Americans become more globally competitive and energy independent, modernize our infrastructure and healthcare systems, invest in the future of education, while providing unprecedented accountability and transparency. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was approved by a vote of 246-183, and will be sent to President Obama this week for his signature.

“Today, Congress took action and passed a responsible solution that will put America on the road to recovery,” said Rep. Green. “We are not looking simply to provide a crutch for Americans who have lost their jobs. Our investment in the workforce is designed to not only rebuild America, but to transform our economy for long-term growth and make Americans globally competitive in growing industries like green collar jobs, new energy markets, and health care information and technologies.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will create and save 3 to 4 million jobs and prepare our economy for long-term growth. This legislation focuses on the struggling economy today and on creating a sustained workforce for tomorrow. ARRA includes strong oversight and public transparency. More than three quarters of all Americans favor this legislation.

“Right now Texas has an unemployment rate of 6 percent, and it is estimated that the Recovery package will create or save over 269,000 jobs in Texas alone,” said Green.

A staggering 3.6 million American jobs have been lost since this recession began in December 2007. High unemployment and rising costs have outpaced Americans’ paychecks. The Recovery Act will help workers train and find jobs, and help struggling families make ends meet. Every dollar in unemployment or food stamp creates at least $1.63 in economic activity, as these funds are spent quickly. 95 percent of Americans will receive an immediate tax cut.

This jobs and economic recovery act contains plans to create or save 269,000 jobs in Texas over the next two years, provide a “Making Work Pay” tax cut of up to $800 for over 8 million workers and their families immediately, and modernize the state’s infrastructure and create jobs with an extra $2.8 billion dollars in funding.

“We cannot afford to wait. Our economy is crumbling, workers are being laid off, people are losing their health insurance, and families are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet,” said Rep. Green. “This legislation will start us back on the right track by looking out for those who have been most affected, and by broadly investing in multiple sectors of our economy. It will take time to turn this economy around, but I am confident that this package will make our economy stronger.”

Gene Green is the Democratic Congressman for East Harris County.

Opinion: Just say no to largest spending bill in U.S. history

Dear Neighbors,

Today, Congress passed the largest spending bill in our nation’s history – I voted NO.

This morning, before the vote, I was talking to my friend Sammy Mahan from Baytown, Texas, and I shared our conversation on the House floor today. Like most Americans, he was concerned about his business and what this is going to cost.

Sammy owns a wrecker business and has five wreckers under his service. He asked me, “How are we going to pay for it?” And I said, “Well, we don’t have the money so we are probably going to have to borrow it, maybe from the Chinese. Eventually there is going to be a tax increase.”

And he asked, “How much is it going to cost?” I said, “$790 billion.” Then he said, “No. How much is it going to cost me?” I replied, “It is about $10,000 per family, is what they say.”

Then he said, “Well, I don’t have $10,000; and unlike you government boys, I can’t spend money I don’t have. So I want you to opt me out of this deal.” And I asked, “What do you mean, opt you out?” He replied, “Give me a form. I want to sign it. You take $10,000 off that $790 billion. I don’t want to pay it because I don’t have the money.”

I suspect that if most Americans read this bill and they realized how much it was going to cost them personally they would agree with Sammy. And since people I represent can’t opt out, I am going to opt out for them.

Congress needs to come up with a plan that actually stimulates our economy by addressing the problems that got us here, not creating more. But in another failed attempt to save the day, Congress continued down the same path of careless and wasteful spending and voted 246 – 183 to pass this misguided spending bill loaded with pork. Congress needs to act to revive our economy, but a bill loaded with pet projects and more government programs is not the way to financial salvation. Government is not the answer – it is the problem.

Allowing Americans to keep more of their own money by providing tax cuts for everyone who pays federal income tax is the only proven method of giving the economy the shot in the arm it needs to recover. We do not need more government jobs, we need to allow our small businesses to increase their productivity and create jobs that will last. I believe that Americans know how to best spend their money, not the Washington elites.

Ted Poe is the Republican congressman for East Harris and West Liberty County.

East Houston Hospital subject of Rotary talk

HIGHLANDS — Recovering from flood damage after Hurricane Ike, the East Houston Regional Medical Center on I-10 in Northshore has returned to almost full operation, according to CEO Jeff Holland, and is better than ever in terms of medical services and physical plant.

Holland was speaking at the weekly luncheon of the Highlands Rotary club, and explained that EHRMC has now combined with Bayshore Hospital in Pasadena, to offer more services and more specialty doctors.

East Houston is still a complete, free-standing hospital, with 131 beds, outpatient and inpatient diagnostic and surgical procedures, and a Level IV Trauma Center, the only one in East Harris County.

However, because of the merger with Bayshore Hospital, it can now offer more unique services.

Bayshore is larger, with 373 beds. Combined they have 700 doctors available. Both hospitals are a part of HCA, Hospital Corporation of America, with a total of 10 hospitals in Houston, and hundreds nationwide.

Holland said that HCA was able to reopen East Houston expeditously, because they have hospitals in Florida and are used to recovery from hurricanes. Improvements at EHRMC include digital X-Rays, a new MRI machine, a new Cardiac Catheter lab, and a new Nuclear Medicine Camera.

Building improvements include a new roof, new lift stations for sewers, and with the city of Houston, new emergency power for these pump stations.

Playing the banking game

It amazes me how this Madoff fellow got away absconding millions and millions of dollars from people who thought they were getting richer. This is one time I am glad we are not wealthy.

On top of that, Madoff has been walking freely about. It is a wonder somebody hasn’t jerked a knot in his tail for what he did, being free like he is. Do you think rich people do that?

It would be interesting to see a list of who lost and how much. It would be like playing poker, read ’em and weep.

The government was asleep at the wheel on this one, specifically the Securities and Exchange Commission. Having spent 38 years working for six banks in two buildings, one gets to know how bank examiners work or at least some of it.

The examiners would go through our investment accounts like the bonds, stock, etc and etc., then the examiners would send correspondence to account holders requesting verification of the account and amount, etc. The examiners would go through us as if using a flea comb looking for irregularities. Of course, as Madoff has proven; it is sometimes hard to catch a thief.

One time, there was a bank examiner who would go through people’s waste baskets. Of course this one bank examiner had smelled a rat and was digging deep for irregularities.

Then again having been close friends with past examiners, one can say they do party and play at times. They like to play practical jokes on one another as well as cover for their podna’s too.

At one time, a bank would take the examiners out to lunch but that is now history thanks to people like Bert Lance and Jessie James. The examiners loved to go to the boat clubs or country clubs for their luncheon. Many would drink their lunch thus making a day of the lunch.

Mind you lots of people drink their lunches, so it is not all government people. Bankers are not angels by any means. Many have sticky fingers and I’ll share a few tales with you if you are interested.

The story goes that this one banker would make all these restaurant loans to persons and get a five or ten thousand dollar kickback for making the loan.

Then there was this banker who got a kickback on each loan approved for a certain dealer until company management got air of the deal.

Then there was the banker who would make leg loans. Now let me tell you, that is a brave man or fool, one way or the other, some poor fool is going to have to collect it. Been known to collect a few leg loans in my career from bankers who had gone down the road; the customers sure gets perturbed when they have to fork over the cash for their little sweetie’s monthly note.

This one customer would take notes out for persons of his religious sect to sign and he would then return the signed notes to the bank. This person was an outstanding person of the community, big in the church, etc, etc and of course etc. He forged I don’t know how many of the notes thinking he was helping the church and all.