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Posts published in “Day: May 22, 2008

Highlands Fire Board election gets little notice

HIGHLANDS– ESD #14 completed their election by canvasing the votes last Monday night at a special called meeting. The Emergency Service District is the quasi-government board that levies taxes for the Highlands Volunteer Fire Department, and allocates monies for their budget.
Due to lack of publicity, only 53 votes were cast, out of a possible thousands of electorate. Of these, Jim Strouhal got 50 and Alton Neatherlin 36 for reelection. The Tax Rate Authorization received 49 For and 4 Against votes, thus passing.
This election was necessary because the Texas State Legislature, in their 2007 session, changed the regulations governing ESD boards, so that commissioners must be elected rather than appointed, and serve two year terms. This meant that in Highlands, two seats were up for replacement this time. Jim Strouhal, board president, and Alton Neatherlin, were the candidate and were reelected.
On advice of the ESD legal counsel, the ballot also contained a provision for the district to raise taxes in the future, from the current 5¢ per $100 valuation of real estate, to a maximum of 10¢ as allowed by law. However, attorney Butch Callegari explained that the election laws would not allow this to happen without public hearings that would be advertised in the future, prior to a board vote on the rate.

The requirement to publicize or advertise an election was not part of the requirements of this vote, according to Callegari. Notice of the election was “posted” in only 3 locations, but he said this met the legal requirements. These locations were the doors of the fire station, the community center, and the court house annex in Baytown.
At Monday night’s meeting, several local residents complained that no one in the community knew about the election or even the right to run for office. Historically, election notices have been published in local newspapers, but this time it was not done. Said Highlands resident Ted Kaminski, “The public doesn’t know there is an election. It’s like I’m a mushroom, being kept in the dark.” Board members later expressed regret that the notices were not publicized in the media. President Jim Strouhal promised that this would not occur again, whether required or not.
According to authorities, the change in law was proposed by Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole. He preferred that ESD boards were responsible to the public, not the County Commissioners who at that time were appointing them. As passed in 2007, this legislation only applies to Harris County, no other Texas counties.
Part of the provisions of the act say that the government body calling the election must pay the expenses, and in this case it will be the ESD#14. Expenses, including ballots, judges, attorneys, translations into 3 languages, and other costs are expected to be around $12,000, which will come out of the fire department’s budget, it was pointed out.
The act is extemely unpopular in smaller ESD districts, and there is some talk of repealing the law, or modifying it so that commissioners could serve longer terms. As it is now, 3 more Highlands commissioners must stand for election, with similar costs, in 2009.
Business Meeting
In other Fire Department business, Chief Harvey Little reported to the ESD board that in April there had been 168 incidents or calls for service, including 142 EMS calls, 26 fire calls, and 6 LifeFlights.
On a Year-To-Date comparison, there were 733 calls for service in 2007 at the end of April, as compared with 841 in 2008.
Response times have improved, and are 10 minutes average for fire calls, and 6 minutes for EMS in district.
Regular bills were also voted to be paid at this session, totalling about $16,400.

Hillary leaves her mark in West Virginia

The lady in the pants suit really went through my home state of West Virginia with a vengeance this past Tuesday (May 13), the date of the West Virginia Primary election. Hillary Clinton won the state presidential primary over Obama by a 72% to 28%. This was one of the most lopsided victories in any of the state elections this year.
For Clinton it seemed to me she won a skirmish after the war is over. In my view, which doesn’t appear to be in the minority, I believe she has not had a chance of winning the nomination on the Democratic side for the past several weeks unless one of two things happen:
Senator Obama falls flat on his face by doing something to upset the apple cart or the Clinton’s pull enough strings that causes Hillary to win at the convention even if she has less delegate votes. If the latter happens I think that will create such an uprising in the Democratic Party it will give the presidency to McCain.

Unless Obama has another pastor waiting in the wings hoping to derail him or he makes a really bad move or two toward the end that causes him to lose he is John McCain’s opposition in November. I’m pulling for Obama to win, not because I am a fan of his but because I believe he is the easier for McCain to beat in the general election. I’m a very conservative person politically so you might say I am playing a dangerous political game.
In my view Hillary, though liberal, is less so than Obama and might come closer (although there would be a wide margin) to my views if she were to become president. Obama and this writer are so far apart I believe, should he become president, one of my few options would be to move to Australia.
While John McCain and I have some political differences I do believe he and I would get along just fine. To get elected, and to keep his options open while in office, I think he is going to have to bend more to the right. Otherwise, his base will start eroding and he won’t get much done.
It won’t be long before we know if it will be Clinton or Obama. By the time you read this the primaries in Kentucky and Oregon will be over and the pundits have each winning one of those. Then, I think the Senator from Illinois will win Montana and South Dakota by good margins and Puerto Rico going to the Senator from New York.
It will be an interesting summer and fall as we go through both conventions and then the election campaigns. I hope there are enough of us out there to pull McCain through. If not, any volunteers to help me with the Australia move?
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!

What can you expect from a Financial Advisor?

The investment world can be complex – and trying to navigate it by yourself is a daunting task. That’s why you may want to work with a professional financial advisor – someone with the experience and resources to help you reach all your important financial objectives.
Your first task, then, is to find a financial advisor with whom you will be comfortable. Ask your friends, relatives and co-workers for referrals, and don’t be shy about interviewing a few financial advisors. When you’re talking to prospective financial advisors, look for someone who stresses comprehensive financial strategies, rather than individual transactions. Ideally, you will want someone who asks questions such as these:
* What are your goals? You’ll need a financial advisor who shows considerable interest in your short- and long-term goals. After all, you’ll want this person to help you accomplish a variety of things – saving for a new home, sending your children to college, attaining a comfortable retirement lifestyle and so on. Every single recommendation a financial advisor makes should be based on your goals.

* What does your family situation look like? A financial advisor will ask you a lot of family-related questions: How many children do you have? Do you plan to send them to college? If so, how much do you hope to contribute to their education? Does your spouse have a retirement plan at work? Will you have aging parents that may require some type of assistance from you? By eliciting this type of information, a financial advisor can help you create a “family-friendly” investment strategy.
* What are your attitudes toward investment risk? A conscientious financial advisor will determine if you are a conservative investor – someone who favors investments that offer a greater likelihood of preservation of principal – an aggressive investor – someone who is comfortable taking greater risks in hopes of greater returns – or a moderate investor – someone who falls in between the other two groups. While a good financial advisor will, of course, tailor recommendations to your risk tolerance, he or she may, on occasion, need to push you a bit out of your “comfort zone” to help you achieve your goals.
* What investments do you currently own? For a financial advisor to do his or her job, and to provide the best chance of showing these possible benefits to you, he or she will need a complete understanding of your current holdings: your IRA, 401(k), stocks, bonds, government securities, Certificates of Deposit (CDs) – everything. Once a financial advisor knows what you already have, he or she can identify any potential gaps in your portfolio and make appropriate recommendations for filling them.
* What are your feelings about leaving a legacy? For many people, the issue of leaving a legacy is highly emotional. That’s because so many of us, almost instinctively, want to “leave something behind” for our families and those charitable organizations we support. A good financial advisor will probe your attitudes toward leaving a legacy and help develop strategies that support your goals in this area. Eventually, your financial advisor may have to work with your other financial professionals, including your tax advisor and your attorney, to carry out your strategies of leaving the legacy you desire.
As you work toward your financial objectives, you’ll have a lot of questions. Just make sure your financial advisor does, too.

Old River-Winfree upholds teen curfew

OLD RIVER-WINFREE—With school closing for the summer next week teenagers traditionally take advantage of the summer hours to stay out late at night. In the City of Old River-Winfree this could mean a possible violation of a city ordinance and a fine up to $500.
Last week the Old River Winfree City Council upheld a city ordinance that created a juvenile curfew between midnight and 4 a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays. Weekend hours (Friday and Saturday) are1 to 4 a.m.
There was discussion to change the midnight starting time, however council members eventually voted to maintain the 12 a.m. time.
The city has had a juvenile curfew on the books since 2005.

Under Ordinance 2005-005, it is illegal for juveniles to be “in any public place or on the premises of any establishment within the city during curfew hours.” The law states that the “parent or guardian of the minor commits an offense if he knowingly permits or by insufficient control allows the minor to remain in any public place or on the premises of any establishment within the city curfew hours.”
Business owners who allow juveniles on the premises during curfew hours are also in violation of the law.
A juvenile or minor is defined as anyone under the age of 17. The city says that public places, as mentioned in the ordinance, include streets, highways, and common areas such as office buildings, shops and any place where the public or a substantial group has access.
A minor is not in violation of the ordinance if they are accompanied by their guardian, on an errand at the direction of their parent or guardian without any other stop or detour, or “engaged in an employment activity or going to or returning home from an employment activity, without detour or stop.”
The city says that the ordinance was created to not only deter crimes committed by juveniles, but to also protect them from being victims of crime themselves. The city adds the ordinance has an added bonus of reducing peer pressure among juveniles to stay out late and to “assist parents in the control of their children.”
In other city discussion, a request was brought to the council to increase the city’s sole police officer’s shift from 32 hours a week to 40 hours a week. Council tabled the motion stating that the needed to examine the budget to see if the funds are available. The city begins a new fiscal year in September.
Also related to public safety, the council was asked to approve $3,500 to purchase a new radio for the police car. Mayor Joe Landry said that he would talk to Chambers County Emergency Management to see if they knew a vendor who could give the city a lower price for the equipment.