Monthly Archives: February 2017

Community leaders,  business professionals,  and educators were honored today by support workers at HISD.

The 27th annual Pillars of the Community and Black History awards were held this morning at Beechnut Academy. 

The event is put on each year by the union that represents custodians, kitchen workers,  and bus drivers at HISD.  

Some of those honored included Dr. Albert Lemons,  Shad Bogany,  and Sandra Massie Hines to name a few.  

Isiah Carey served as master of ceremonies for the 10th year in a row. 

HESP Union President Wretha Rawls Thomas founded the annual awards event.  


Beginning at 1 p.m. TOMORROW (Thursday, February 23), U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo will meet to discuss the department’s ongoing recruitment of military veterans and federal legislation the senator is introducing that can assist in those efforts.  The media availability will be held at three locations within the HPD Edward A. Thomas Building at 1200 Travis.

At 1 p.m., in his 16th floor conference room, Chief Acevedo and Senator Cornyn will meet with HPD recruiting officers and veterans who have joined the department.  There they will discuss HPD’s recruitment efforts and how veterans have transitioned from military life to one of law enforcement. 

Following the roundtable discussion, Chief Acevedo and Senator Cornyn will join Mayor Turner in the HPD Media Briefing Room to discuss how the senator’s bipartisan legislation will aid in recruiting veterans and the valued role of the veterans already in the ranks of HPD.  Following the media briefing and question and answer period, Chief Acevedo will take Senator Cornyn on a short tour of the HPD Museum located directly outside the Media Briefing Room.

What: U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Police Chief Art Acevedo to Announce Veterans Recruitment Efforts and Incentives
Date: Tomorrow (Thursday, February 23)
Time: 1:00pm – Roundtable begins (b-roll opportunity only)

1:20pm – Media Availability and Q&A

1:40pm – Tour of HPD Museum (b-roll opportunity only)

Where: The HPD Edward A. Thomas Building, 1200 Travis Street

Roundtable: Chief’s Conference Room- 16th Floor

Media Availability: HPD Media Briefing Room- 1st Floor

HPD Museum Tour:  1st Floor


Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that his office filed a lawsuit in Hidalgo County against a Mission, Texas-based construction company, and that a court has granted a restraining order stopping the company and its administrators from allegedly targeting Hispanics in a home building scam.

 

According to the lawsuit, Briseno Construction claimed in ads targeted to Spanish-speaking consumers that it could complete a new home in five months with “no financing” and “no interest.” An investigation by Attorney General Paxton’s Consumer Protection Division, however, found that prospective home buyers were required to make deposits of up to 60 percent in order to start construction of their homes, but the company would often delay starting or neglect to complete. 


In addition, a number of consumers complained about facing local fines because their homes were built without proper permits.

 

 




Briseno Construction and its owners, Alejandra Melendez and Adelina Briseno, are charged in the lawsuit with repeat violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practice Act (DTPA). The attorney general’s office is seeking a permanent injunction against the defendants, restitution for affected home buyers, and civil penalties of up to $20,000 for each of the defendants’ violations of the DTPA.

Consumers who believe they have been deceived in the purchase of real estate should contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

 

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez gave official notice Tuesday that he is opting out of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s voluntary 287(g) program. 


The decision places Harris County in line with 251 of 254 Texas counties that do not take part in the program that allows ICE to deputize local law officers to perform certain federal immigration enforcement functions in jails. The decision will free at least $675,000 in the sheriff’s budget to more effectively direct resources to address local public safety issues.

The process to begin termination of the HCSO’s participation in this voluntary program will begin immediately. It is Sheriff Gonzalez’s intent that the transition away from this program be conducted in a smooth, responsible manner that prioritizes the continued safety of the residents of Harris County.

Harris County Sheriff’s Office Child Abuse investigators are releasing information on the conviction of 26-year-old Joshua Harrison Bishnow (DOB 12/03/90), who was charged with three counts of possession of child pornography. 

Bishnow plead guilty and was sentenced to 8 years confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) on Monday February 20, 2017 in 248th district court.

The investigation on Bishnow was started after he went to a local office supply store to have an iPhone screen replaced in June of 2016.

During the repairs a technician found numerous pictures of child pornography.

HCSO North District patrol deputies were called and met Bishnow as he returned to pick up the phone.

He denied having placed any material on the phone, and the phone was retained as evidence.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office Child Abuse Unit and High Tech Crime Unit secured a search warrant on Bishnow’s residence.

Investigators seized computer servers and laptop computer.

They recovered several hundred pictures of child pornography and videos. 

Bishnow is now awaiting transfer to TDCJ.


Today, a group of key state lawmakers filed a slate of legislation to push back against Texas Central Railway’s controversial proposal to construct a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston.  Senators Birdwell (R-Granbury), Creighton (R-Conroe), Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), Perry (R-Lubbock), and Schwertner (R-Georgetown) joined with Representatives Ashby (R-Lufkin), Bell (R-Magnolia), Cook (R-Corsicana), Schubert (R-Caldwell), and Wray (R-Waxahachie) to file a total of 18 bills addressing a number of concerns ranging from protecting landowners threatened by eminent domain abuse to ensuring the state isn’t later forced to bail out the private project with taxpayer dollars.

 

“This group of foreign investors is threating to seize family farms, physically divide the state of Texas, and have a gravely detrimental impact on the citizens I represent,” said State Representative Leighton Schubert.  “At a minimum, the people of Texas deserve reasonable reassurances that their private property rights will be respected and that they will not be left holding the bag if this ill-conceived project fails.”

 

In addition to the brewing controversies over eminent domain and the general regulation of high-speed rail, a number of questions remain unanswered regarding the specific details of Texas Central’s proposal.  While TCR has claimed that the project will cost just $12 billion to complete, an independent analysis from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) puts that estimate at closer to $18 billion.

 

Critics have also raised grave concerns about the overall financial viability of the project, noting that without some form of government subsidy, Texas Central will find it virtually impossible to meet their stated ridership estimates at prices competitive with existing modes of transportation.

 

“This legislation will ensure that the property rights of our constituents are respected and state taxpayers aren’t asked to bail out this project when costs inevitably exceed stated projections and ridership fails to meet expectations.” said Senator Charles Schwertner, expressing his serious doubts about the long-term financial viability of the project.  Schwertner went on to cite a recent independent study by the Reason Foundation which indicates a proposed high-speed rail between Dallas and Houston will lose over $537 million a year and could cost taxpayers up to $21.5 billion.

 

“I won’t stand by while good people are forced to give up their private property rights for a rail project that will bring little to no economic benefit to our region,” Representative Ashby stated. “The opposition to this project has been loud and clear in my district, and I’m proud to stand by the people I represent in fighting for more transparency and thoughtfulness when it comes to projects that affect Texas.”

 

The current conflict between foreign developers and rural landowners is reminiscent of a similar debate over the so-called Trans-Texas Corridor, a highly-controversial and similarly ambitious statewide transportation project that dominated Texas politics for much of the last decade.  Following intense opposition from conservative interest groups, state lawmakers, and rural landowners the project was ultimately abandoned.

 

“Since the proposed high-speed rail project stretches across Texas, we need to make sure all of the necessary data and research has been completed to ensure private property rights are being protected.” said Senator Charles Perry, a key member of the Senate Transportation Committee.

 

“Transportation is a critical issue for our state, which requires thoughtful and pragmatic solutions for today and the future,” added Representative Wray.  “Texas Central has failed to demonstrate a viable or comprehensive plan addressing the real mobility needs of our state, and the legislation filed today seeks to address the legitimate issues posed by this project.”

 

State Senator Brian Birdwell, himself a survivor of the September 11, 2001, terror attack on the Pentagon, expressed substantial concerns regarding what security measures will be taken to screen passengers and protect the rail-line from a potential terrorist attack.  “For two years I have been an outspoken opponent of this project and the negative impact it would have on the citizens I represent,” said Birdwell.  “I’m pleased to be filing security-focused legislation to ensure the safety of all Texans should any future high-speed rail project be undertaken in our state.”

 

In July, the Surface Transportation Board dealt a substantial blow to Texas Central’s high-speed rail proposal, determining the federal government lacked the authority to grant eminent domain powers to TCR or otherwise regulate the proposed high-speed train.  Since then, it’s become increasingly unclear whether TCR has the actual legal authority to take land from private property owners along the train’s proposed path or regulatory framework necessary to operate a high-speed train in Texas.

 

“It is not a railroad, and therefore, it does not have eminent domain authority,” added Representative Byron Cook, Chairman of the House State Affairs Committee which oversees most eminent domain legislation.  “If any train were ultimately to be built, the idea of using a proprietary Japanese technology that is incompatible with other rail technologies used in our state is very problematic. If this initiative is eventually approved, Texas must require a fully vetted, statewide master plan that involves the Texas Department of Transportation.”

 

“I still have doubts about whether a high-speed rail project makes sense for Texas. Taxpayers should not be expected to pay the bill if the project fails,” said Senator Brandon Creighton.

 

Representative Cecil Bell, Jr. echoed that sentiment, adding: “Without taxpayer dollars, the project in Texas is on track to fail.  My bill would require that at the beginning of such a project, the company take steps to ensure the restoration of this beautiful part of rural Texas if the project ceases to operate.”

 

“Texans have always had a deep respect for the land and for the law,” added Senator Lois Kolkhorst.  “That’s why the Legislature must tread lightly when property rights are at risk.”

 

The elected officials mentioned above have worked throughout the interim with Texans Against High-Speed Rail (TAHSR). This group represents thousands of affected landowners who are saying ‘no’ to the project. Kyle Workman, spokesman for TAHSR, remains confident in the work put forth by the aforementioned elected officials.

 

“All of these offices, and many more of their colleagues, have been engaged with our team to make sure that the voices of their constituents are heard loud and clear,” said Workman. “We’re happy to have these Senators and State Representatives on our team as we make progress against the high-speed rail train.”

 

On Wednesday, Houston area professors will join with students and community leaders to host a press conference and rally calling on Texas Legislators to vote no on Senate Bill 4. A newly formed group, Professors Against SB4, has called for the rally out of concern for the well being of their students and community.

Professor Tony Diaz, author and creator of Librotraficante, said, “We are forming Professors Against SB4 because we want our students to know that we stand with them, regardless of their immigration status. My top priority is making sure our children receive a good education and can go on to be productive community members. That should be our elected officials’ top priority at public institutions as well.”

Leaders from Texas’s faith, law enforcement, business, and advocacy communities have all denounced SB4 as unnecessary and potentially damaging to our state and its economy. The last minute addition of language to the bill to include college campuses and campus police departments has the potential to create a culture of fear that will impact the emotional well being of students and cause colleges across the state to see a drop in enrollment.

Alan Hall, President of AFT Lone Star College, said, “Just this week I had students express to me that they are considering pausing their pursuit of a degree out of fear of what might happen to them, and it breaks my heart. If this bill becomes law and we force our campus police to act as immigration enforcers, we will find ourselves in a situation where we can no longer guarantee a safe and secure learning environment for all our students. And I find that very concerning.”

Professors Against SB4 advocates that immigrants of all statuses be allowed to continue contributing to the Texas economy, paying tuition at state colleges and universities, and participating as active members of our society. Our state’s tradition of common-sense immigration policies has been critical to our economic prosperity and competitiveness. Texas should continue to lead with smart policies that provide pathways to opportunity for all immigrants in Texas.

WHAT: Rally and Press Conference Announcing the Formation of Professors Against TX SB4

WHEN: Wednesday, February 22, from 2 pm to 3:30 pm

WHERE: University of Houston Downtown Commerce Street Building, 1002 Commerce St, Houston, TX 77002

WHO: Professors, Undocumented Students, Faith and Community Leaders, College Representatives to Address the Crowd

VISUALS: Banners, Protest Signs, etc.

The Vietnamese Community of Houston and Vacinities held its first installation service and awards in Houston this week.

The organization welcomed its new leadership while also swearing the officers in Sunday night at Kim Son on Bellaire.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg spoke at the event.

Fox 26 and yours truly received media awards for our on-going coverage of the Vietnamese community in Houston!

Crime Stoppers and the Houston Police Department’s Homicide Division need the public’s assistance identifying the suspect responsible for a Murder.

On Sunday, July 24, 2016, at approximately 11:40 p.m., Mr. Enrique Cisneros (photo below) was shot in the 7200 block of Atwell Drive in Houston, Texas. During the incident, a dark colored pick-up truck was seen in the area where the shooting occurred. After the shooting, Mr. Cisneros walked to his apartment and was transported to a nearby hospital, where he died from his injuries.

There is no suspect information at this time.

Mr. Cisneros’s family is requesting help finding the individual responsible for this murder. This case is still open pending new leads.

Suspect #1: Unknown suspect driving a dark colored Chevrolet Crew Cab pick-up truck.

Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information leading to the charging and/or arrest of the suspect in this case. Information may be reported by calling 713-222-TIPS (8477) or submitted online at www.crime-stoppers.org. Tips may also be sent via a text message by texting the following: TIP610 plus the information to CRIMES (274637). All tipsters remain anonymous.

Harris County Sheriff’s Office District 4 West patrol deputies arrested and charged four suspects with aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping after they forced their way in to an apartment located in the 1600 block of Katy Gap road in west Harris County.

Deputies say that Juwan Deshotel (DOB 09/03/99), Yuel Valcin (DOB 12/13/93), Derrick Boudreaux (DOB 01/13/99) and Derrica Lewis (DOB 12/22/98) forced their way into a residence on Friday, February 10, 2017, at around 11:40 pm

The four were armed with a handgun and an AR-15 rifle; they tied up the two residents, a 25 year old male and 25 year old female, and ransacked the residence for valuables.

One of the victims was able to call 911 and deputies arrived quickly enough to apprehend all four as they were exiting the apartment. 

The three men and one woman were taken into custody without incident.

The weapons and the valuables were recovered. 

The male and female were checked by EMS and no injuries were reported.

All are currently in the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Detention Facilities awaiting arraignment. 

Juwan Deshotel and Yuel Valcin are being held on a no bond.
Derrick Boudreaux is being held on $50,000 bond and Derrica Lewis is being held on a $30,000 bond.
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bettencourt

Today at the Senate Finance Committee hearing chaired by Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) questioned Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Director Whitney Brewster on the status of actual fraud detection software and systems in the state’s Registration and Title System (RTS). At least 10 county tax offices and state regional centers have been affected by these thefts over the last two years per the testimony of TxDMV Executive Director Brewster.

 

“Having six Tax Assessor-Collectors arrested for registration and title fraud across the state in the last year is appalling to say the least,” Senator Bettencourt said.

 

“Now that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has upgraded and modernized the old Registration and Title System (RTS) mainframe to a modern server system, fraud detection tools must be developed to stop elected tax assessors and/or their employees from stealing and defrauding public monies from the state and counties,” he added.

 

In testimony today, Tax Assessor-Collectors in Austin, Cameron, Starr, Milam, Leon, Van Zandt were arrested in the last year and other state and county offices have had employees arrested as well.

 

“It’s an epidemic. There is just too much money changing hands at window counters all across the state on titles and registrations to ignore this problem any longer,” Senator Bettencourt added. “A lot of these are cash transactions that can be cancelled by the lack of RTS fraud tools, and it has to stop.”

 

As a tax assessor-collector in Harris County for a decade, Senator Bettencourt directed his Harris County tax office executive director and office staff at the time to develop fraud detection software programs to be “bolted onto” the RTS system that is still in service 15 years later that prevents similar theft in RTS.

 

“It is time that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles adopt similar tools to prevent this epidemic of thefts at tax offices around the state,” he requested of the TxDMV executive director during testimony.

 

In response, Commissioner Brewster said this development of anti-fraud tools is being done in the base budget request of the department. Senator Bettencourt expects to follow this software development closely in the legislative session.