Photo: Courtesy of the Houston Food BankThe Houston Food Bank held an event on June 5, 2018, to promote its annual Summer Food Service Program, which will feed eligible children and will cover Harris County and 11 more counties located in southeast Texas.The Houston Food Bank will serve thousands of meals in the coming weeks to children who qualify for its Summer Food Service Program, which is funded by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).The Houston Food Bank held an event Tuesday to kick off the 2018 edition of the program, which will have more than 200 sites where food and meals will be distributed and will cover 12 counties located in southeast Texas, including Harris County.Tuesday’s event was meant to provide information to the public about the sites that will be operating this summer because, according to the TDA, only 12 percent of eligible students participate in summer feeding programs such as the one conducted by the Houston Food Bank, as well as other programs managed by some school districts.Stephanie Berno, director of Outreach Services at the Houston Food Bank, noted the program combines hot meals that are ready to eat and breakfast items such as milk and cereal, along with snacks and fruit.“We have 22 trucks delivering meals,” Berno explained.Some of the distribution sites that are participating this year in the program are the Harris County public libraries and many of the public libraries managed by the City of Houston.Additionally, as part of this year’s program and through their foundation, the Houston Astros have provided funding for a van that will deliver meals at apartment complexes located in Pasadena starting around mid-June. A food truck will also deliver meals in apartment complexes located in Baytown, also starting around the middle of the month.The program will be implemented through late August.You can find information about distribution sites on the Houston Food Bank’s website, specifically in this section. Share
To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Listen 00:00 /50:33 X On Thursday’s Houston Matters: Stafford’s school board is holding a special meeting on safety measures tonight after the city council cut funding for resource officers last week. The school board president lays out his security priorities for the district. Then, News 88.7’s Elizabeth Trovall examines why Houston’s immigration judges are less likely to grant asylum.Also this hour: In June it was announced that Texas A&M is among a group of institutions that will operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, the nation’s preeminent nuclear research facility, over the next five years under a new $2.5 billion contract. We learn why the move was made and what A&M might be doing.Then, David Alexander of the Rice Space Institute tells Houston Matters about the new Parker Solar Probe, which will travel to the sun. Author Reza Aslan discusses his book, God: A Human History. And we visit Houston’s 311 call center.WATCH: Today’s Houston Matters 360-Degree Facebook Live Video.We offer a free, daily podcast here, on iTunes, Stitcher and various other podcasting apps. This article is part of the Houston Matters podcast Share
Mark Moz/FlickrHouston area home sales increased by 3.8 percent in 2018. Share Listen X To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: 00:00 /00:48 Houston realtors sold 82,177 single-family homes last year. That’s about 3,000 more than in 2017 – the previous record year, according to the Houston Association of Realtors.The record high number comes despite a slower than usual December, when home sales dropped by 4.6 percent compared to the year prior.Chaille Ralph, who chairs HAR’s Multiple Listing Service, said the year exceeded expectations.“Obviously, coming out of Harvey at the end of 2017, there was some uncertainty, but we did anticipate it to be a good year,” she said. “I don’t think we anticipated it to end as strongly as it did.”via HAR.comMedian home prices were also up – 3.3 percent over the previous year – to $237,500.One concern for the year ahead is low inventory levels, which is pushing prices up and making it a seller’s market.Ralph said some of it may be seasonal. “We typically see the spring time become more active with inventory on the market,” she said.Nationwide, mortgage applications spiked last week, thanks in part to low rates.
Share You can read a copy of Local Rule 9.1 here: Roy Luck/FlickrA bail bond office in Houston, near Minute Maid Park.Three Houston bail bond companies have sued Harris County’s 15 misdemeanor judges and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez over a new rule that will release all individuals arrested for a misdemeanor on no-cash bonds, with some exceptions.The new policy, known as Local Rule 9.1, was written by the county’s misdemeanor judges who were elected last November and will start being implemented Saturday, February 16. The lawsuit accuses Gonzalez of being complicit with the judges.Individuals arrested for domestic violence, repeat drunken driving offenses and bond violations would not qualify for automatic release. Those defendants would have to appear before a judge within 48 hours to determine their risk, but they might also qualify for personal recognizance bonds in some cases.Under the new rule, approximately 85 percent of people arrested on misdemeanors would automatically qualify for release on no-cash bonds, according to the county’s pretrial services division.Arguments of the lawsuitThe lawsuit contends the rule effectively denies defendants their constitutional right to bail by removing it as an option.The lawsuit also argues defendants have a right to use the services of a bondsman, when allowed under the Texas constitution and state statute.Another argument is that judges should have discretion to set bond and the lawsuit alleges the new rule takes away that discretion in violation of Texas law, as Houston Chronicle reporter Gabrielle Banks told Houston Matters on Friday.Banks said the bail bond industry is in the cross-hairs if poor people are no longer subject to costly bonds, especially for misdemeanors. “It’s going to take a bite out of the bail industry and the bail industry is watching very, very closely to see what happens,” she added.LivelihoodsThe lawsuit also argues the new rule threatens bondsmen’s livelihoods.The bondsmen asked the judge to issue an injunction to prevent the rule from going into effect, but that request was denied.The Office of Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, which represents the misdemeanor judges, didn’t respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit.Harris County’s cash bail system has been under litigation in federal court since 2016 and a settlement is currently being negotiated.You can read a copy of the bondsmen lawsuit here:
To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Listen Many people still call it “Gunspoint” – an area in the north of Houston, where Interstate-45 meets the Beltway. Its real name, of course, is Greenspoint, and a new branding campaign by the management district wants the area to be known simply as North Houston.Statistics show crime has gone down in the past few years and there has been some major investment in the area – more than $400 million in developments, including $100 million in office space.But are the bad times really behind for Greenspoint?A promotional video shown at an event to introduce the North Houston District’s campaign calls the area “an urban centric location with lots of hustle and bustle, thriving every day.”As part of it, the district is highlighting recent developments, like a new Coca Cola distribution plant under construction.And at the site of the former Exxon offices, next to the Greenspoint Mall a new lounge for the tenants and employees of the office buildings, called The Third Place at City North, features ping pong, a putting green, pool tables, television screens and a kitchen area.And that’s just a part of the improvements here, said Michael Kasmiersky, vice president of property management for Lincoln Property Co.“We’re spending about $4 million in the exterior of the retail, we’re redoing the façade, adding landscaping, seating, bocce ball. We’ll have music, we’ll have Wi-Fi,” he said. “Just trying to really improve this area and really improve this complex.”The North Houston Development Corporation, a tax increment reinvestment zone or TIRZ, is currently building a new bike race park that will host the 2020 BMX world championship.Sally Bradford, executive director of the development corporation, said they have done major infrastructure improvements and added public art all over the Greater Greenspoint area.“We’re trying to really make this a place where people come (and) they go, wow, I didn’t realize this is so nice out here,” Bradford said. “And it takes time and it’s challenging.”One challenge is the many subpar apartment complexes.Steve Moore, owner of Villa Serena Communities, which manages 14 apartment complexes in the area, has been trying to take care of that problem.“I moved into one of my apartments,” he told News 88.7. “I started working with HPD and instead of us blaming the cops and them blaming the apartment owners, we started working together and that’s what turned around the neighborhood.”But has it turned around the neighborhood?The North Houston District analyzed crime stats from the Houston Police Department. The most serious crimes – or Part 1 offenses – went down across Houston between 2010 and 2018. The police beat just north of Beltway 8, which covers a large part of Greenspoint, went from the Houston beat with the third most crimes to 19th. Offenses dropped by 30 percent in those eight years.But that’s not the reality for everyone in the area.Mauricio Rodriguez said he has lived at Biscayne at Cityview apartments for the past five years. It’s one of Steve Moore’s Villa Serena communities, but Rodriguez said he has actually seen more crime in the past two or three years, mostly car burglaries, and he’s hearing gunshots at night.His brother was robbed down the street just this year, Rodriguez said.“One day he (went) to the gas station and somebody put (a) gun in his back,” he said. “And he (took all his) money.”One of Rodriguez’s neighbors, Alvin West, feels safe in Greenspoint – although his reference point is Compton, California, where he moved from three years ago.“Well, I saw a few small things happen,” he said. “I saw a store get robbed. I saw a few fights but nothing major, you know. And I heard someone got shot on the bus stop. But where I’m from, the things that I saw and heard of here would happen once a year compared to every day where I’m from.”University of Houston architecture professor Susan Rogers, who directs the Community Design Resource Center, said housing is the biggest challenge in an area with one of the highest poverty rates in the city.“The fact that this neighborhood provides 11,000-plus units, that that housing is an important part of our collection of affordable housing in the city and that a lot of people who live there are very vulnerable,” Rogers said.Then there’s the Greenspoint Mall. Once the thriving center of the neighborhood, it’s now without any major retailers.On a recent afternoon, the large parking lot was nearly empty. Shopper Bridget Jones said she still comes here fairly often.“The mall, I don’t know,” she said. “It’s like going down, yeah. It ain’t used to be like this at the mall. It’s nothing in there no more.”She’s worried it will shut its doors completely, in which case she would have to drive far to go shopping.Greg Simpson, president of the North Houston District, said the district has no control over what happens with the mall, but he’s optimistic.“There may not be a better redevelopment opportunity in the entire city,” he said. “We know that there’s been interest in that site over the last few years. We’re hopeful that something will happen there and I believe over time something will. It’s just the nature of development in Houston. It’s just too good of a site.”Jerry Davis, the city council member for this area, also feels optimistic for the future of Greenspoint, acknowledging that it’s not quite where it should be.“It’s no different from any other area,” he said. “It’s going to take time, it’s going to take effort – effort from the people, effort from the local government corporations and effort from the businesses. And when we all come together and work together, we can have success.”And a big part of that, Davis said, is improved drainage. Greenspoint was one of the worst affected areas during the Tax Day flood of 2016, and then again during Hurricane Harvey.And so part of the debate is whether to buy out many of the apartment complexes next to Greens Bayou.And the next question is then: Where would all those residents go? – / 16 X 00:00 /03:50 Share
UMES Hospitality and Tourism Management students at the Shady Grove campus in Rockville, Md. recently raised $25,000 to support a non-profit organization that helps low-income families get back on their feet. The students partnered with local chefs and food producers to raise money for the Campus Kitchens Project, a national community service project for students devoted to hunger relief.The UMES students who participate in the Campus Kitchens Project routinely use what they learn in class to create nutritious meals for residents of The Dwelling Place of Gaithersburg as well as hold workshops to teach basic cooking skills and advocate for hunger awareness in Montgomery County.Those students took their community-service activism to a new level in late April when they organized a gourmet meal fundraiser, “Dining with the Chefs,” in which they worked alongside some of the Washington area’s best-known chefs. The chefs, including honorary event chairman, Ype Von Hengst of the Silver Diner, donated time and resources to teach students who belong to the Campus Kitchens Project chapter at Shady Grove how to recreate dishes from their respective restaurants. The students then used the recipes to create a four-course tasting menu, which were paired with wines donated from the Maryland Wineries Association. The UMES student pastry class, with help of chef mentors and la Madeleine of Rockville, followed the tasting menu with “decadent desserts.”Five percent of the proceeds were donated to The Dwelling Place; the rest will be used to further Campus Kitchens’ mission of fighting hunger in Montgomery County.Ruth Lee O’Rourke, the program director of hotel-tourism management at Shady Grove, called the event – nearly two years in the making – a “breakout success.” The smiles on the faces of participants in online photos, including Princess Anne campus leaders, reflect that claim. “Hospitality is more than just working in the industry and that’s what this event is about,” UMES alumnus Mark Whitelock said. “We can use our work to help others, but we can also teach others why it’s important to help. By helping others you help yourself.”
The push to find homes for hundreds of unaccompanied Central American immigrant children increases as Maryland leaders search to find a solution to the current immigration crisis.The prevailing thought is that the children are leaving their home country due to the violence they’re forced to endure. For many Central American children, gangs are taking over the streets and the idea of fleeing to the United States seems a better option.With more than 50,000 immigrant children coming into the United States in less than a year, more pressure is being put on Maryland to house some of them. However, options for shelter spaces are running low as controversy has scrapped some shelter locations in Baltimore City and Westminster.Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she is open to the idea of turning vacant federal buildings into shelters, just a day after Gov. Martin O’Malley spoke out against the idea. He supports an expanded foster care network or placing the children in private homes.Catholic Charities proposed placement of about 50 children in their St. Vincent’s Villa in Baltimore County, saying the housing would be funded through a mix of federal dollars and donations. They would also provide health and educational services for the children.While there seems to be varying views about the issue, one thing is for sure, and that is a solution for Maryland’s child immigration crisis needs to be found quickly. According to the Health and Human Services Department, between Jan. 1 and July 7 Maryland has taken in 2,205 unaccompanied immigrant children.On a per capita basis this means that Maryland has more unaccompanied immigrant children who are settled with sponsors than any other state. Administration officials said the reason is based on the high proportion of Maryland residents from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the countries from which most of the immigrant children are fleeing.Baltimore residents have much to say about the crisis and how the children should be handled.Kendra Carr can see the changes that are happening in the neighborhood from the recent influx of immigrants and believes the mayor’s idea is not bad.“If they are going to do something about these vacant [buildings] in Baltimore, then yeah,” said Carr, who’s lived in the city about five years. “If this is their incentive to finally clean up Baltimore and do something with a lot of these vacant properties, then I definitely think it’s a great idea, especially since you don’t want these kids roaming the streets and potentially getting into trouble becoming part of all the crime that is happening here anyway.”Alnita Sherrill feels it’s the thing to do.“A lot … have issues with having people that are different from them living in their backyard,” said Sherrill. “To me having immigrants should be allowed, because if we have the space and the ability to house them then why not?”In regards to expanding the foster care system, Sherrill thinks Mayor Rawlings-Blake should expand the system for all children.“Well I think it’s a good idea if she does it not only for the sake of the immigrant children who are coming in, but for the sake of the children who are already here,” Sherrill stated. “I’ve come from the system, not personally, but knowing the system, knowing that it’s already overworked and already underserved when it comes to having workers to work with the kids and placement for the children, so it’s already over utilized and the need is great.”Marilyn Blanding agrees with Sherrill’s sentiment of looking out for Baltimore children as well.“We have to look out for our own children too because our children need help. The housing is terrible because you can’t find housing for people and we have a terrible homelessness situation going on, but if every, all states participated maybe it wouldn’t be so bad,” said Blanding.Blanding doesn’t think expanding the foster care system would be a cure-all. “It may not be a full solution to the problem, because our foster care system is booked, overbooked. It’s mainly our Black children who need foster care and I don’t want to boot our Black children out,” she said.In regards to Catholic Charities helping the immigrant children, Blanding thinks it’s a good idea.“It may help them. I can see Catholic Charities trying to help them because that’s what they do,” she said. “As long as somebody helps them, not just throw them in a building somewhere and leave them there. If Catholic Charities can do that, then I’m for it. Help them get an education, help them go forth and do whatever it is they need to do to move up. Maybe they can better themselves and go back and take care of their people in their country.”Howard W. Roberts, coordinator of Urban Youth Ministries within the African American Ministries of The Archdiocese of Baltimore, said Catholic Charities should definitely help.“I think it’s automatic, it’s a no brainer; we should be doing likewise for all those who are in their most trying time of need and we worked efforts throughout the Archdiocese here to sort of support any way we can,” Roberts said. “It’s only right that we treat those who are likewise coming from other places in the way we would want and in the way I think should be modeled by anybody who professes to be a Christian. We’ll let them sort out the politics later but the first issue is to address their immediate needs and make sure the people feel as safe and welcomed as we would want to be or have been at some point in our history of this country.”Roberts also gave some more insight as to what the African American Ministries are doing to help provide relief.“We do a series of efforts as individual churches. We work with about 14 churches out of the office of African American Ministries and those individual churches are a part of all those fundraising efforts,” Roberts said.While most people seem to think that some type of relief should be provided to immigrant children coming into Maryland, William Richards believes otherwise.Richards believes that unaccompanied immigrant children “should be at home with their parents.” He also said most immigrants coming into the country are not children, but are “adults and young adults who are in gangs” and are “using the border as an excuse to sneak into the country.” He also believes that we must help our own homeless children and people in Maryland who have issues and need shelter before we help others from outside of the country.Vera Richards, a resident of D.C., seems to think the opposite by not viewing immigrants coming into the U.S. as a problem.“The view that immigrants are a problem is isolated to the individuals who believe immigrants are taking ‘what is not theirs to have’. From my knowledge, most immigrants are willing to work 10 times harder than the folks complaining about them. America will only continue being a leading power if we have the people willing to work,” Vera Richards said.In regards to immigrant children coming into the United States, she said, “I agree that the children should remain in America. They are here to feel safe and be educated. Children are the leaders of the future and as such, America should invest in them. Children should be afforded the opportunity to achieve the ‘American Dream’.” “When it comes to helping, D.C. needs to follow the same guidelines it places on its residents. Provide immigrants with a job and place them on a program so that eventually they become tax paying citizens giving back to the community.”
In the crowded race for the two at-large D.C. Council seats in the Nov. 4 general election, community activist Robert White and former journalist and think tank analyst Elissa Silverman have emerged as the leaders for the non-Democratic position. D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) is also running for re-election and because of the city’s strong Democratic base, she is widely expected to grab one of the two at-large seats.Robert White is an independent at-large candidate for the D.C. Council.White, a District lawyer who worked as an aide to D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), has picked up the endorsement of D.C. Council members Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), and David Grosso (I-At Large), and former D.C. Board of Education president and philanthropist and fundraiser Peggy Cooper Cafritz. Silverman, who lives in Ward 6, has gotten the endorsements of the D.C. Chapter of the National Organization for Women, D.C. Working Families, Ward 6 D.C. Council candidate Charles Allen, and Jews United for Justice.McDuffie said that White’s experience with Norton qualifies him to serve on the council. “It is critical that District residents elect the right person to serve on the council at this time in our city’s history – a candidate that understands our city’s unique issues and the promise of our future,” McDuffie said. “Robert’s commitment to his community and years of experience crafting legislation as a staffer to Norton separate him from the pack of candidates seeking the at-large council seat reserved for non-Democrats.”The at-large race is the only seriously contested council race this year because D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), McDuffie, D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and D.C. Council candidates Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) face minor opposition in the general election.Political observers believe that Silverman can be considered a front-runner because of her name recognition from a previous council run and her organizational strength. Allen supports Silverman because he believes that she will be a fine colleague.“I’ve known Elissa for more than 10 years,” Allen said. “I’ve known her as a reporter, an advocate and a watchdog for our city. In each of those roles, she’s focused her career and her energy on having the city do what right for the residents of the District of Columbia.”If White, an African American, wins along with Bonds in November, the D.C. Council will be majority Black in January 2015, but White does not think in those terms. “I will represent all residents of the District,” he said. “I have lived in each quadrant of the city and I understand the challenges that people face. I have the experience to advocate on behalf of families.”Silverman, however, will not concede the Black vote to anyone, saying that her track record is one that African-American voters should look at. “I have been a fighter for more affordable housing, creating good jobs, and improving our educational system,” she said at an at-large candidates’ forum sponsored by DC for Democracy on Sept. 10 at the First Congregational Church.Howard University political scientist Michael Fauntroy said he thinks that District voters should not focus exclusively on race when voting for an at-large candidate. “I am not hung up on the racial makeup of a candidate,” Fauntroy said. “District residents should vote for people who want efficient government and that is as well run as possible.”Fauntroy said that voters should be cautious about candidates who label themselves as progressives, no matter what color they are. “Progressive is an interesting term because I have found that there are limits to progressivism,” he said. “For example, there is very little discussion among the candidates for office this year about gentrification and how it is affecting working-class people. They are speaking about it in vague terms and there clearly is a limit to liberalism.”
Andrew McPhatter was fatally shot in Southeast D.C. on March 1. (Courtesy Photo)A recent wave of violence in Southeast, D.C. left one man dead after six shootings took place in a span of seven days. Six people were shot along Wheeler Road and one was murdered between Feb. 23 and March 1 as D.C. police roll out initiatives to keep illegal guns off the streets.On Feb. 23 four people were shot in three separate incidents within two hours on Wheeler Road. On Feb. 27, a woman was struck by gunfire in another Wheeler Road shooting. “We should not be losing our young men to gun violence in our city,” Interim Police Chief Peter Newsham said March 6 at a community meeting at Eagle Academy Public Charter School. “Every single time that we have a young man that’s killed in Washington, D.C. I see their picture and every single time I see that picture a piece of my heart chips away.”The gunfire ended with the fatal shooting of Andrew McPhatter, 28, on March 1. According to police, McPhatter was shot and wounded in the 3500 block of Wheeler Road, SE around 10:50 a.m. Police said they were in the Congress Heights neighborhood when they heard the sound of several gunshots.Authorities searched the area and found a Buick GS 350 stopped in the middle of the road. Inside of the vehicle was McPhatter siting in the front passenger seat bleeding and suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, police said. McPhatter was transported to a local hospital in critical condition. He died on March 5.Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson Karimah Bilal told the AFRO on March 6 that no arrests have been made and there is no further information in the case. However, law enforcement officials said 27 illegal firearms were removed from District streets the week between Feb. 27 and March 6.ANC Commissioner for Ward 8B02 Paul Trantham told the AFRO March 7 that gun recovery isn’t enough to end violence in Southeast D.C. “We are witnessing gun violence day and night,” Trantham said. “They are saying they are recovering guns, but they aren’t saying where they coming from and how these kids are getting them.”Trantham also said police understaffing is another issue the city is dealing with. According to Trantham, the police force, currently staffed with about 3,700 officers, needs to increase to 4,200.He asked Mayor Muriel Bowser to hire more patrollers and place additional plain clothed officers in high crime areas, and that she didn’t fulfill his request. “I feel as though the city council and mayor are letting citizens down,” said Trantham. He said the mayor is “numb” to the violence in ward 7 and ward 8, and not facing the reality of the brutality in the area.A response to Trantham’s accusation was not received from the mayor’s office before press time.In January, Council member Vincent Gray introduced a bill to increase the number of police officers and increase retention bonuses until the force’s population reached Gray’s goal of 4,200. The “Force of 4,200” bill has not passed.
By The Associated PressSchool officials say a Maryland high school student used a racist slur in a social media message after his school’s basketball team lost to a team comprised mostly of Black players.The Capitol Gazette reports a letter sent to parents of students at Broadneck High School informed them of the Snapchat message which features a photo of a student and a caption that officials say was aimed at Annapolis High School players.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)Broadneck Principal Jim Todd called the post “deplorable.” Todd promised the school would discipline the student, but privacy laws prevent public disclosure of the punishment.The Caucus of African American Leaders says it will urge the local school board to pass a policy requiring all high school students to take a course on diversity and inclusion before they graduate.