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Posts published in March 2004

Governor Perry proposes Tax Reform Plan

Will call special session to end Robin Hood, put 3% cap on assessment increases


HOUSTON– Governor Rick Perry came to town, to announce a new tax initiative which he believes will end the increases in tax bills that property owners have received every year, and will change the way school districts are funded, so that property rich districts no longer have to share their wealth with poor districts.

These changes would be revolutionary, and according to Perry would provide Texans with real property tax relief, and protect them against skyrocketing property tax increases in the future.

Perry, in an animated presentation before a sympathetic tax reform crowd at the Bayland Community Center, said “Texans were told a property tax cut was on the way in 1997, but when they opened their bill many found that their rate cuts were offset by appraisal hikes. I want a tax cut to be a tax cut, not a sleight of hand where the end result means Texans pay more.”

“Had we implemented a revenue cap in 1997, tied to inflation and population growth, Texans could be paying about 20 percent less in property taxes today,” Perry said.

On hand to bolster his arguments were Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, grass roots tax cut leader and radio personality Dan Patrick, and County Commissioner Steve Radack, all Republican supporters of Perry.

“To ensure property appraisal fairness and accuracy,” Perry said, “Texas also should require disclosure of real property sales prices–as some Texas appraisal districts and 35 other state already do.”

Perry said his plan also addresses local entities budget concerns by promising an end to unfunded mandates from the state.

In response to a question from the Northeast News, Perry said that he would call a special session in the next two months to formulate the details of the plan.

Perry’s plan also included a 3% cap on homestead appraisal increases each year, an elected rather than an appointed appraisal board, and limits on increases in local government budgets, pegged to inflation and population growth, with the previous year as a base. Any additional increase would require a voter referendum.

New study finds Flood Plains growing in area

Luce, Jackson Bayou, San Jacinto enlarge


EAST HARRIS COUNTY—Flooding is a way of life in East Harris County. With a majority of residents living in close proximity to the Goose Creek, Jackson Bayou, Luce’s Bayou and San Jacinto River watersheds it is usually only a matter of time before residents see water come onto their property.

A recent study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Harris County Flood Control District will, for the first time, give property owners an advance look at how the new Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DIRMS) will be drawn. These maps are used by insurance companies in calculating flood insurance rates based on flooding risks.

The study comes out of the Tropical Storm Allison Recovery Project, which began in 2001 following the storm which caused over $5 billion in damage and took 22 lives.

According to the Flood Control District the new data comes in the form of maps which show the 1% and .2% (100 and 500 year) flood plains and the flood ways for each watershed. A watershed is the land area that ultimately drains rainfall into a common outlet, such as a body of water. The 1% and .2% figures indicate the chances that a base flood would flood an area from an adjacent bayou or creek.

For the first time, the Flood Control District is releasing the data prior to the release of preliminary DFIRMS, which should be in late Spring or early Summer.

According to the maps released most of the watersheds have become larger, with more residences now included in their respective flood plains.

“The Harris County Flood Control District is providing Flood Hazard Recovery Data now in order to provide the public and their communities as much time as possible to learn about possible changes to the mapped flood plains and floodways,” said Mike Talbott, director of the Harris County Flood Control District.

The new data can be found online at At this site, residents can type in their address or zip code to find out if they are within the expected new flood plains.

Living outside a flood plain is not guarantee that a property will not be flooded. In 2001, 65% of homes flooded from Allison were outside a flood plain.

School Elections see only one contest


EAST HARRIS CO.– Of the three school districts serving East Harris County: Goose Creek, Crosby and Huffman; only Huffman will have an election this yeaar for the Board of Trustees.

Under state law, if there are no contested races then the candidate who filed for the seat automatically is named for the term.

This was the case in Crosby and Goose Creek as a lack of candidates prevented contested races.

Each district had two seats up for election this year. In Huffman, positions 4 and 5 were on the ballot. Currently, these seats are being held by Pat Buzbee and Kent Hjerpe.

Seeking election to Position 4 are Bruce Johnson, Lee Gruvert and Charles Mason.

Mark Rudolph is the sole candidate for Position 5.

The election will be held May 15, with early voting beginning March 16 and lasting through May 11.

For full story, please see your local copy of the Star Courier.

Zydeco Jamm hosts near capacity crowds late Saturday

Step Rideau was the final act of the 6th Original Zydeco Jamm Festival last weekend. Rideau has risen from third best in the nation (and trying harder) to tied for best in Zydeco with Nooney and the Zydeco Floaters, now Step Rideau has asssembled an awesome manifest of traditional Zydeco with an ecclectic of a throaty, hoarse Southern language in a French accent. This was the first Jamm Fest to be held for two days. Throngs of parking filled the former H.E.B. Pantry lot, and surrounding neighborhood. Features this year included dance competitions, a bevy of venders.

Spring time brings chores

Generally when day light is burning, I like to be out in it as I was yesterday. Got a lot of chores done like post hole digging, pouring concrete, planting onions and fence straightening. Sounds like work? You bet! I am glad the rain ran me in the house this morning.

Got up early this morning and cut a half dollar size hole in the base of that Goose Neck Gourd that has finally dried out. I took a few seeds to some sod busters I know to see if they can grow their own gourds. Like I told them, I am not certain the seeds will make, as they were dark grayish black in color. Almost an ash color and I ain’t sure if they’re suppose to be like that or not. Good luck anyhow.

One of the gents has 62 tomatoes in the ground already and onions coming up in between the tomatoes. Tomatoes love onions they say. Four gardening spots this man has and some are bordered with 2 by 12 inch boards and some long ones at that. That is what you call a raised garden, duh.

Interesting gardener this one gent is. He had ordered some guineas and was raising them and they are great “guard dogs” if you know anything about guineas (birds). I inquired this morning about the new Dominique Rooster in the guinea’s pen area and he said that he had to get rid of the guineas because they dug up his potatoes.

It is a pretty rooster and did not cock-a-doodledoo any while I was there. You know some people call a Dominique chicken a Plymouth Rock chicken.

Anyway, this new rooster owner says a hen has showed up since he got the rooster and he does not know where it comes from but he’s gotten eggs.

Another of my gardening friends has 35 tomato plants set out in his garden and numerous ones in pots.

For them as well as myself, I sure hope we have had our last frost. Knock wood.

While shoring up a sagging fence yesterday, I came across an itty bitty brown snake. Don’t know what kind it was, didn’t want to stomp on it and ‘fraid to touch it even though was sound asleep. I lifted the entire plank it was on and held it up over the fence. I thumped it over the fence close to where I let that little mouse go.

Check this out. Last week in the big city paper there was a piece about a 52 year old man that ain’t had a bath in 10 years. Villagers got a hold of him and proceeded to give him a washing.

I believe I passed that same man in the grocery aisle store once. It hit me like a fog. I dang near passed out.

If it glows in the dark, don’t eat it…

Suppose to have gone fishing this morning, but the weather ain’t cooperating and in more ways than one. Put some new line on three reels the other evening, cleaned out my tackle bucket from last year and sharpened my knife that I take fishing. It’ll keep until next time.

A nice mess of fresh fish sounds good even though we had fried fish yesterday at the Pilot Clubs Community Fair in Highlands, good too!

One needs to eat more fish anyhow. Getting to where the chicken flu epidemic is spooking a lot of folks and the mad cow thing is too. Course fish have their problems too – if it glows in the dark, don’t eat it.

Eat more peas and cornbread I reckon; give me some tomato and a chunk of onion please.

Managed to get in the garden this morning before it started to rain and played in the mud a bit following the tiller.

Ground is still too wet for me to plant. As I was tilling, I looked out over my neighbor’s back yard, and flying above was what looked like a Purple Martin. More than likely a scout and it was looking for my martin house.

After I went over the garden, I tromped over in my 10 pound muddy shoes and put up the bird house on the pole. The plastic birdhouse is all cleaned out from last year’s nesting material and ready for a new batch of babies. I like to sit outback in an easy chair, drink my coffee, watch the purple martins and wonder what the poor folks are doing.

Had a small box arrive this past week in the mail. The Mrs. ordered four tomato tree starter kids. Although I have doubts about the things making, but I’ll give it my best shot. Says the plants/tree produce two pound tomatoes each and should produce 60 pounds of tomatoes. All I have to say is I have to see it to believe it. If they all produce, that is 240 pounds of tomatoes.

Reckon I’ll be eating a lot of tomato sandwiches. I’ll eat my words with it if they all make.

Would not mind putting up a few quart jars of tomatoes this spring. They stink during the cooking process as I remember. Back when the grown folks did all that canning back in Georgia, I stayed outside trying to find something to get into.

Lots to do as a chap: a woodshed, smokehouse, tool shed, barn, corn crib with the mule shed behind it to check out.

There was a large hog pen down the hill from the house, but only ventured down there when it was time to slop the hogs or on the way to the river.

Hargrave student wins top Rodeo Art Award

Oil painting of Horse beside pond; Last year’s winner sold for $135,000

HUFFMAN—“It was a very big shock.”

That was the reaction of Hargrave High School senior Andrew Cherry when he learned that his oil painting “Beside Still Waters,”was named Grand Champion of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo School Art Contest. Cherry is an 18 year old senior at Hargrave High School in Huffman. He is the son of Andy and Brenda Cherry.

The School Art Program began with an idea that became reality in 1963. Although expectations were that it would take several years for the program to grow, the Show received more than 700 entries that first year. In the past 38 years, the program has grown at a brisk pace and now involves more than 300,000 entries. This year, said Cherry, 535 pieces of art made it to Houston for final judging.

Participants range from Kindergarten through 12th grade and must submit an original project based on Western culture, history or heritage. Projects are generally created in the fall and then judged by qualified individuals from the Show’s School Art Committee.

Cherry, who has competed in the contest since the seventh grade, said that he set a goal of winning Grand Champion before he graduated. “I was praying this would be the one. It’s a wonderful way to leave. I wanted to leave a legacy at my high school.”

Cherry’s entry features a horse looking into a pond at its reflection. Cherry said that he chose this subject because he knew to win he would have to do something that was unique and had not been done before.

The win for Cherry was doubly sweet in that this was the first time that he seriously painted with oils. Last summer, he won a scholarship to study at the Western Art Academy in Kerrville under instructor Jay Hester. “When I go into oils, I fell in love with it.”

The road to Houston was long for Cherry. Hargrave High art teacher Donna Hardin said that Cherry had to first win Best of Show in a district wide art competition before he could show in Houston.

Cherry’s next big day will come on March 21, when the art auction is held. Last year, the Grand Champion art project was hammered down at a record $135,000. Cherry said that each year the price for the Grand Champion rises and he hopes this trend continues. For his effort Cherry is guaranteed 10% of the sale price or $10,000, whichever is higher. He added that he is hoping his take would come closer to $15,000.

After he graduates, Cherry said that he plans to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, where he will study painting, film and cinematography.