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Posts published in “Day: August 23, 2012

For love of travel

By Angie Liang

After days in and days out behind a desk, there is nothing better than to wander with curiosity in a new place. This is the gift I can give myself: Exploration. Learning history, experiencing new cultures, tasting different cuisines, and breathing a different life.

Most importantly, when I travel, I take time to reflect on my life and understand who I am at the moment. I want to share some of my recent experiences. I hope that you, too, can look within yourself this summer.


In a roaring crowd of Italian spirit — the flag waving frantically back and forth, green-white-and-red colored wigs, soccer jerseys, and giant television screens — I’m standing sheepishly with my friend looking for a sign. We’re in the middle of Circo Massimo, an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium that houses hundreds of thousands of people. After we searched from the Piazza del Popolo to the Spanish Steps, a kind police officer told us this is where we can watch the final Euro Cup game.

At last I see it — the Spanish flag. My friend is from Spain, so we will not be cheering for Italy, despite traveling in this beautiful country. Instead we find comrades with whom she can support her home team. Before the game, they exchange teasing boasts with the Italian crowd about whose side will win.

The next two hours are filled with shouts, groans, and excitement. Our group becomes family as we cheer together. My friend links arms with a fellow Spaniard as they wave the flag, while another jokes around with me. After Spain scores two goals, we are met with a little jeering and multiple bouts of water thrown at us. No matter, in this heat. We only cheer harder.

At the end of the game, we come out victorious, unscathed, and with a once in a lifetime experience.


My day trip to Brussels was a whim. A good one. Everything about this city is pleasant — even how I got there. On the train, the man next to me is also from New York, and he’s listening to Tim McGraw. Once we arrive, I ask the station manager and helpful strangers how to get into the city center, beginning my adventure with really only one goal: Eat well.

After an amazing seafood feast, I’m standing near Saint Katherine’s with my map, confused. Behind me an elderly man named Rafael asks if he can help me locate something. I graciously accept, and then for the next couple of hours I’m given an unexpected local tour of the city. I learn about how many of Brussels’s famous buildings were constructed, where the best chocolates are, and even a “secret oasis” that once was the site of a Dominican church.

Rafael, an avid traveler who knows several languages, owns an antique crystal shop. His tiny store is filled floor to ceiling with crystal glasses, many from the early 1900s. He shows me some of his favorite pieces and explains their origins. He even demonstrates how to evaluate them. Piiiiing – the clear ringing sound assures me this is true crystal.

Upon my departure, Rafael gifts me a pair of port glasses. A keepsake from Brussels, so that I will return again.

Crosby, Huffman hold school board elections

By Lewis Spearman

CROSBY, HUFFMAN – School board elections will be held in both local districts in northeast Harris County this year.

There is one contested position in Huffman where four positions come up for popular review and there are three contested school board positions in Crosby where three positions are subject to elections.

In Huffman only Guy Smith will face contender Patrick Keith for the seventh position in the At-Large District. Dean Tinnin, Charles Bardwell, and Matt Dutton are unchallenged.

In Crosby, Sheryl Shaw is going to retire from the school board to pursue a full time teaching position within the local college level. She currently teaches part-time at San Jacinto College. Her Position 4 is being contended between David Shaver and David Porter (both of Newport Subdivision.) Shaw threw her support to David Shaver and speaks well of local pharmacist Porter. Shaw says her time on the Crosby School Board has been “personally very rewarding.”

Position 5 is a challenge between incumbent Carla Mills Windfont and Will Locke.

Position 7 is between incumbent Gerald L. Blankenship and Dr. James Hofmann.

Asking each candidate what would they like to see happen if they are elected to their prospective position this time gave unique answers.

David Shaver is interested in more quality technical training for students that do not wish to attend college.

“When our students are not preparing for college, they are really not prepared to do anything. When I was in school you had wood-shop, automotive and things of this nature that you could actually get a certificate from taking. You had a skill that you could go out into the work force and get a job. Right now a student can go over to San Jacinto and take the courses from Crosby but that takes them away from the local campuses and we have to bus them back, they get back to late to get involved in extracurricular activities like football or baseball. So to have something here on campus or in the general vicinity would be better for them.”

David Porter said he did not have any kind of adjenda for the schoool board but, “I have been around this community my entire life and have been in Crosby my adult life. I want to have an input into the future of this community. That may not sound very exciting but I still have kids that go to school here, we go to church here, we work here, I would like to see what we can do to improve the education of our kiddos.”

Carla Mills-Windfont answers, “Having been reared here and a graduate of Crosby High School, I graduated in 1980, It is my stance to be fair, to put kids’ education first for the future, my legacy, grandkids, great grandkids, cousins and for the betterment of Crosby ISD. I say over and over, Crosby is the best kept secret and I know we produce the best. So, it is my intent to keep producing the best by striving for the best. Whether it is employees, personnel or even those on the board our kids deserve for all of us to strive for the best. That is what I strive for.”

Will Locke answers, “I have run for the school board two or three times, I have been asked this question numerous at the times, and not only one person can make changes. Basically, I want on the school board as a watchdog. I think the money being spent is not being looked at how it should be spent. Positively, everybody keeps on harping on this college, college, college but I think we need to get something different in our school district. I think we need to get something like shops were we can teach our kids how to work. Autoshops, metalshops or woodshops these are somethings we want to work towards, it is going to take awhile, you cannot do it by yourself. You have to plant a seed and see what becomes of it.”

Gerald Blankenship said that he wants to continue on the school board because, “I think our school board is facing a very critical time, we are going to be looking at a building program sooner than we want to and I feel that my experience can help this process go smoother and I can be a good steward of the taxpayer’s money and I always look at ways to save money for the district.

Dr. James Hofmann answered, “The main thing that has been driving me to run over the last few months is the moral of this district, the moral of the teachers I feel is at an all time low. I feel students’ moral is way down. It is hard to pinpoint the exact reason but I feel that our good teachers are not being allowed to do what they do. You always have teachers that don’t want to teach and they should not be there but they are the ones that are not effected.

“I think you know that the district here has been financially strapped but we have been able to put out pretty decent students. I’ve been in this district since 1995 and I know a few teachers make a whole lot of difference in your life and I know Crosby has those but I feel they are real disenchanted right now with the way things are going. I hope to make some change. You have seen the change we lost our school teacher of the year last year, Marty Murray, we lost obviously our football coach, who was held in high esteem.

“We have lost Science labs at the intermediate school and we have lost a tremendous high school principal, I thought. We are losing a record number of teachers. When we had a protest after the coach resigned they basically paid not attention to what the public outcry was. It has become apparent to me the only way to effect change is to be on the school board.”

San Jacinto Waste Pits subject to new lawsuit from County Attorney

August 16, 2012–Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan announced today that his Office has filed an amended complaint against several companies that knowingly allowed dioxin to pollute the San Jacinto River for over 40 years.

The complaint details the companies’ actions, inactions, and silence that led to decades of dioxin exposure to the public and the food supply of Harris County. The lawsuit was first filed in December 2011 against International Paper Company, Waste Management, Inc., Waste Management of Texas, Inc. and McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corporation.

The County’s lawsuit contends that in 1965 the Champion Paper Mill contracted with what is now a Waste Management company to dispose of toxic wastes from a paper mill into ponds located near the San Jacinto River. The waste ponds were eventually abandoned and portions of the ponds and their toxic contents became submerged below the San Jacinto River.

The chemical wastes include dioxin which is widely regarded as one of the world’s most toxic chemicals.

According to the lawsuit, historical documents reveal that the abandonment of deteriorating and leaking dioxin waste pits was planned, purposeful and intentional.

The County’s lawsuit alleges details of a corporate plan to dispose of toxic “black liquor” into ponds near the shores of the San Jacinto River. Defendants are alleged to have voted to “abandon” pits full of dioxin waste, while company executives rewarded themselves with large bonuses.

The complaint notes that “[b]ecause Defendants have left a legacy of pollution in Harris County by causing and allowing dioxin to be released into the San Jacinto River instead of spending the money to properly dispose of their dangerous chemicals, it is appropriate that they now compensate Harris County for the consequences of their choices.

Harris County is represented by Vince Ryan, Harris County Attorney, Terry O’Rourke, and Rock Owens of the Office of the Harris County Attorney, and the law firm of Connelly – Baker – Wotring LLP.