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Posts published in “Day: August 16, 2007

Passport Fair at Highlands Post Office on Saturday, Aug. 25

HIGHLANDS– The Highlands Post office will hold special Saturday hours, for a Passport Fair on Aug. 25 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at the office located at 608 S. Main Street.
Employees will be on-site to answer customers questions regarding the passport process.
Anyone traveling by air to any foreign country is required to have a passport. In order to obtain a passport applicants must have an application for a passport, proof of citizenship, proof of identity and two passport photos taken within the last six months.
Everyone must apply in person, including minors.
Cost for passports are $67 for 16 years and older, $52 for 15 years and younger. There is also a $30 per passport USPS agency processing fee. Photos can be taken at the post office for $15 per person. Passport processing takes between 12-14 weeks.

Highlands Chamber hears of Communities in Schools

HIGHLANDS– Chamber of Commerce members and guests heard a full report on Communities in Schools, from Rafael Montgomery. Chamber president Jessica Woods presented the speaker, and moderated the luncheon.
CIS is a program administered by the Texas Education Agency, and has existed since 1979 in many Texas communities. In Baytown, the organization was formed in 1993. As explained in their brochure, the Mission of Communities in Schools is to help young people stay in school, successfully learn and prepare for life by coordinating the connection of needed community resources in the school setting.
CIS has found that many children don’t have a structured family to support them, and CIS tries to provide some help.
They believe that each child needs and deserves five basics:
1. A personal, one-on-one relationship with a caring adult;
2. A safe place to learn and grow;
3. A healthy start and a healthy future;
4. A marketable skill to use upon graduation;
5. A chance to give back to peers and community.
A basic technique that CIS uses is Mentors, from the community or businesses, to work with individual children.
CIS works with Goose Creek schools, and has a case manager at Highlands Junior. There are also programs in Crosby and Channelview.
Funding for Communities in Schools comes from several sources, Montgomery said. These include United Way, Goose Creek CISD, the state of Texas, and various grant programs.
Also speaking in favor of the program were several parents, including Brandy Tapley of the Chamber, Jessica Woods, and United Way president David Mohlman.
After the presentation by Montgomery, Woods invited members to visit B. P. Hopper, which is the Chamber’s partner school, to see the new renovations and additions, including a new gym.
Woods announced that next month’s luncheon would include the Terry Davis Award, the Business of the Year Award, and recognition of Public Safety Officers.

Accused fugitive caught near Highlands

HIGHLANDS—A woman wanted by federal marshals in connection with the shooting death of two Louisiana police officers was arrested near Highlands Sunday morning.
Marianne Matus, a spokesperson for the U.S. Marshall’s Office said that Tonya Smith was arrested without incident at an RV park near the intersection of Interstate 10 East and Crosby-Lynchburg Road.
Matus said that on Aug. 10 Smith and boyfriend Dennis Clem were at the Budget Inn hotel in Bastrop, La. when two officers who were following up on a stolen vehicle call, approached the pair.
A gun battle ensued in which Clem and officers John Smith and Charles Wilson were fatally wounded. Two other paramedics were also shot.
Despite a police dragnet across the area, Smith was able to slip away back into Texas. Matus said that Smith was familiar with the East Harris County and that investigators returned to this area in hopes of capturing her.

Smith has been charged with two counts of first degree murder of a police officer in Louisiana. She is currently in a Harris County jail awaiting extradition to Louisiana.
Three other people, who are believed to have helped Smith escape Bastrop, have been charged with accessory to a homicide.
Smith and Clem were on the run following a fatal shooting on July 14 in Channelview.
On July 14 employees at the East Houston Regional Medical Center were shocked to see a bullet-ridden pickup pull into their parking lot. Brandon Lewis, 19, and Brian Davis, 15, were pronounced dead at the scene.
An investigation led officers back to Clem’s home in Channelview. Witnesses say that Clem had fired several shots at the pickup carrying Lewis and Davis. Witnesses added that the shooting started when the driver of the truck shot a visitor to the home, critically wounding him. Clem responded by firing several rounds from an AK-47 rifle.
Investigators said that Clem and Smith, who was at the house at the time of the shooting, fled the area fearing a double-murder charge.

Crosby boy and pony win world horse show

FORT WORTH– Garrett Vaughan of Crosby, and his American Quarter Horse “Coolestshowgirlintown” captured the world champion yearling mare title at the Ford American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Championship Show in Fort Worth on Saturday.
Vaughan and his 1-year-old bay mare showed against 25 entries to win the title and a prize package that included a Montana Silversmiths silver buckle, Cripple Creek leather jacket and products from Tex Tan and Professional’s Choice.
The Lee Sterling High freshman, 15 year old says “I’ve been halter showing since I was about 9.”
The American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Championship Show is the world’s largest, single-breed youth world championship show. This is the pinnacle for youth around the world who must qualify for the event by earning a predetermined number of points to earn the right to compete in each of the 33 classes representing halter, English, and western disciplines.
A local trainer, Terry Nutt, introduced the family to the events and “a fine horse.” In 2003 Garrett first went to the H.U.H.Y.A. events and placed third in World in halter. It took several events to qualify “Coolestshowgirlintown” to attend the championship.
Nearly 2,000 entries from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Italy and Venezuela competed at this year’s event.
The event is a beauty show for horses with requirements of poise, body development and posture with expert handling by the equistrian. “The confirmation totality; coat, shape of the head, and developed shape of the body of the horse makes up the basis of the horse. It is to determine the best representation of an American Quarter Horse.
Garrett is training as cornerback and receiver for the Baytown Sterling football team. He is the son of Gary and Lisa Vaughan of Crosby.
Garrett is involved in Crosby 4-H, has won Reserved Grand Champion at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Garrett says his next horsemanship plans are to “Go back next year and win again.” although “Coolestshowgirlintown” has now been sold as a result of the Championship.

First Annual Crosby Youth Football League parade, season opener on Aug. 25

CROSBY— The First Annual Crosby Youth Football Parade will be Saturday, Aug. 25.
The parade will travel; north along FM 2100 from the Crosby High School to the Community Center Parking lot behind the Crosby Library. Line up will be in the back parking lot between Crosby High School and the football field at 9 a.m and will start at 10 a.m.
“Please come and join our Crosby Youth Football players and cheerleaders as they proudly display the love for the game and the accomplishments they have made,” parade organizer Bob Ward said. “ Youth football in Crosby started seven years ago by a group of individuals that had a love and passion for the game.”
With two new lighted football fields on FM 2100 and behind the Community Center, league officials said they expect the league to flourish and provide an atmosphere where their children’s football and athletic skills can grow.
Following the parade, the official season starts at noon and public is invited to come out and cheer on the community’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as they prepare to be challenged with 12 weeks of hard hitting football.
“There will be concessions for your convenience, fund raising activities and non stop, action packed football for your entertainment,” Ward added.
If you or your business would like to be involved in the parade, contact Ward at 281-328-7774.

Political primaries are coming too soon

Politics: I don’t know why I even bother as it upsets me each time I get involved or discuss most political matters. This past weekend I read a column in one of the local dailies written by Susan Estrich, a syndicated columnist and sometimes panelist on one or more of the 24-hour TV news networks.
If Estrich would write 100 columns I might agree with her on one. One hundred to one is probably good odds. She is far too liberal for me—a dedicated conservative. Most of the time I don’t even bother to read her stuff or listen on TV.
I hit the 100-1 odds however with her most recent offering. She was writing about the insaneness of us, on a national basis, running presidential campaigns almost constantly. She is attacking our present national sickness of having presidential primaries so far in advance. I noticed in this morning’s Monday’s paper Wisconsin’s Tommy Thompson has already withdrawn his name because of a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses. And, one of the former front-runners, John McCain, appears to be on the ropes. Their positions are not the issue, money is.

Whether your favorite is Thompson, McCain or another is not the point. The point is why are we going through all of this so far in advance. The presidential primaries are getting so far in advance of the election date Estrich wonders if Christmas 2007 might find Santa Claus as a candidate? Answer, only if the elves can raise a few million. She says we are moving in the direction of the insane. To me we are already there.
Certain things are issues now, with the election 15 or so months away one wonders if these issues will be the same then? Are we asking questions and getting responses to certain things that will long be forgotten by then?
It has been said months ago that a candidate can’t win unless he/she announces early. Why? Because one must get commitments and raise funds. One without funds cannot carry on a winning campaign. Oh, to the mighty $$$!
Estrich noted that the public is not really interested now and by the time of elections the candidates will be tired and scripted. I worry about one larger step. Maybe by the time the general public gets involved the candidates will have already been chosen! All of this bothers me; it bothers me a lot!
I’ll “bet yah” my presidential primary is before yours, or theirs or the other guys!
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!
Don Springer can be reached at

“Maxed Out” on IRA and 401(k)? Consider insurance, annuities

Many people rely on their IRAs and 401(k) plans to help them pay for their retirement years – and for good reason, because IRAs and 401(k)s are excellent retirement-savings vehicles. But once you reach the point where you are contributing the maximum amount to your IRA and 401(k) each year, what else can you do to build resources for retirement? You might want to consider annuities and cash value insurance.
Fixed and Variable Annuities
When you buy a fixed annuity, the insurance company puts your funds into fixed income investments, such as bonds. Your principal is guaranteed, and the insurance company pays you an interest rate that is also guaranteed for a certain period of time. At the end of the guarantee period, the insurer adjusts the guaranteed interest rate upward or downward. These guarantees are backed by the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance companies.

If you’d like the potential to earn more than you can receive from a fixed annuity, you might want to consider a variable annuity. When you purchase a variable annuity, you place your money in various accounts that can be made up of stocks, bonds and other securities. You choose how to allocate your investment dollars, based on your risk tolerance and time horizon. (Keep in mind, though, that this investment is called “variable” for a reason; your account balance will fluctuate along with the financial markets, and there’s no guarantee you will get back all your principal. Furthermore, fees are associated with each variable annuity benefit.
With either a fixed or variable annuity, you won’t pay taxes on your earnings until you begin taking withdrawals. Be aware though, that if you are younger than 59-1/2 when you start taking withdrawals, you will have to pay a 10 percent tax penalty in addition to ordinary income tax on the amount withdrawn.
Apart from tax deferral, annuities offer at least one other key benefit: flexibility in taking your payments. You can accept distributions as a lump sum, spread them out over a certain number of years or create an income stream for the rest of your life – or even your life and that of your spouse.
Cash Value Insurance
When you buy permanent insurance, also known as “cash value” insurance, part of your premium pays for the death benefit (the amount that goes to your beneficiary), but some of the payment goes to help build cash value – and this money grows on a tax-deferred basis, similar to annuities, your traditional IRA and your 401(k).
You can choose from a variety of cash-value insurance policies. In building cash value, some of these policies rely on variable investments, such as stocks. Consequently, your cash value will fluctuate over time, and, as is the case with variable annuities, you could lose some or all of your principal. However, you can also choose varieties of cash-value insurance, such as whole life or universal life, that typically pay guaranteed rates of return. The guarantees of these products are also backed only by the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company.
To access your cash value, you can cancel or surrender your policy (although, if you surrender it within a few years of purchasing it, you may have to pay surrender charges) or you can borrow from your policy and either let the remaining cash value pay the interest or pay it back yourself .
Ultimately, you can provide a significant boost to your retirement savings by investing in annuities and cash value insurance. So, give them some consideration once you’ve hit the “ceiling” on your 401(k) and IRA.

Dayton man drowns in Trinity River

DAYTON– A weekend trip to the beach proved tragic for a Dayton family on Aug. 12.
Raul Vega, 38, of Dayton drown in the Trinity River near the River Bend campground.
Officials say that a group of about 10 families members and friends had gathered at the park for an afternoon of recreation. Disaster struck around 8:20 p.m. when witnesses say that Vega fell into the water and did not resurface. A family member was able to pull Vega from the water and begin CPR until medics could arrive.
Paramedics from the City of Liberty ambulance service continued to work on Vega as they transported him to Liberty Dayton Hospital. Vega was pronounced dead at the hospital.
An autopsy has been ordered from the Jefferson County Medical Examiner’s Office. The results of the autopsy have not been made public.

Otto named to legislative Hall of Fame

DAYTON— State Representative John Otto (R-Dayton) this week announced he has been named by the Texas Association of Realtors Legislative Management Team to their “2007 Legislative Hall of Fame.”
The letter from Texas Association of Realtors (TAR) Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Mark Lehman, said in part, “This honor is bestowed to key legislators who demonstrate an uncompromising commitment to championing the rights of homeowners during the previous legislative session.” The letter goes on to thank Otto for his “leadership and dedication to protecting the rights of homeowners and, indeed, all private-property owners in Texas.”
“I am honored to be named to the 2007 Hall of Fame by the Texas Association of Realtors,” said Otto. “I believe the legislature should do all that it can to slow the rate of increase in property taxes, including both appraisal and rate increases.”
“Helping to establish an economic atmosphere that makes home and property ownership possible, and then protecting their rights as owners, is a top priority of mine.”

The driving force behind this recent honor was Otto’s comprehensive work this session protecting homeowners and taxpayers on the important issues of appraisal reform, private property rights, and eminent domain.
On Sept. 9, Otto will address the Texas Association of Realtors at their Annual Convention in Galveston, Texas, to discuss his thoughts on where Texas may be headed with property tax and appraisal reform. The convention will draw its largest crowd ever, with attendance expected to be between 1,500 and 1,600 people.
The “2007 Hall of Fame” honor appeared in the July issue of Texas REALTOR magazine, which was mailed to over 90,000 real estate professionals in Texas.