Hurricane Harvey Recovery Centers and Survey Are Open

April 16th, 2019

Houston Councilman Dave Martin would like to remind residents who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey to apply for assistance through recovery programs and resources under the City of Houston Homeowner Assistance Program (HoAP).

The Recovery Survey is the first step and tool to direct residents to the appropriate recovery program and to help the city prioritize those with urgent needs. No documentation is required to take the Recovery Survey, and it takes less than 15 minutes to complete. While priority will be given to low and moderate income homeowners, assistance is available to homeowners of all income levels. An intake specialist will contact you after you complete the survey regarding the next steps.

The survey can be taken:

If you need assistance filling out the Survey, please call 832-393-0550 or visit one of the stationary HRC’s:

  • Northeast: 9551 N. Wayside, Houston, Texas 77028
  • Northwest: 13101 Northwest Freeway [Hwy. 290], Suite 101, Houston, Texas 77040
  • Southwest: 6464 Savoy Drive, Suite 110, Houston, Texas 77036
  • Southeast: 11550 Fuqua St., 3rd floor, Houston, Texas 77036 (in District E)

The stationary centers are open Monday and Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 to 3 p.m. These centers are closed on Sundays. For a map, click here.

The city received the $1.17 billion for housing recovery through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the State of Texas General Land Office. The recovery funds include the HoAP, which offers five program options including:

  • Reimbursement for completed repairs
  • Homeowner-managed rehabilitation
  • City-managed rehabilitation and reconstruction
  • Buyouts
  • Interim mortgage assistance.

For more information regarding this program, please contact the Houston Recovery Center by calling 832-393-0550.

Preparation Meets Opportunity

April 1st, 2019

Blaine Ochoa and Leo Johnson, owner of LJ Performance Training.

By Blaine Ochoa

“You don’t have to be great to start. But you have to start to be great.”

This is one of Leo Johnson’s favorite quotes. Leo (LJ) is the owner of prestigious gym, LJ Performance Training located in Houston.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Leo and training with him for the upcoming beauty pageant I’m competing in, Miss Houston USA. Fitness is 1/3 of the competition score, and I am thrilled to be training with him to help me achieve my fitness goals.

I am a firm believer in following your dreams and never giving up. This will be my third time competing for Miss Houston USA. When going after a dream or trying to accomplish a goal, there will be ups and downs, setbacks and mistakes. However, if you believe in yourself, persevere, work hard, and never give up, there are no limits to what you can achieve. My life is a testament to this and so is Leo’s.

Leo is from Amarillo, where he started training high school and college students. He played college football at Texas Southern, played basketball and ran track. Health and fitness has always been a passion of his, and he knew he wanted to train professionally. He traveled to Miami, then to Los Angeles to get certified and pursue his dream of training professional athletes. He eventually moved to Texas and called Houston home.

Leo Johnson trains one of his clientele on the rings.

“Fitness has been huge my whole life. Coming from a sports background, I had to maintain living a healthy lifestyle for one, and I grew to love it. I’ve always had aspirations for having my own facility for years. Finally preparation met opportunity, and I got the chance to open my own gym on Feb. 1, 2018. I’ve had huge support from Houston; their support has been astronomical. Not being from Houston and to have gotten the support that I’ve had is amazing.”

He loves owning LJ Performance Training and finds joy in helping others. “It’s refreshing and fulfilling to help people reach their goals and help people accomplish what they’re trying to do. I love the atmosphere and the clientele. The clientele is so diverse and I love that people will not only come to workout but to hang out and chill.”

Throughout life’s journey there will be tough times and difficult moments. Focus, perseverance, and patience plays a great role on the journey to success. “Never give up. I’ve been through so much in life, and, literally, the only reason why I’m still here is because I never gave up.”

He remembers the day he told his children that he wanted to pursue his dream of training professional athletes. Years later, one of his proudest moments was when his daughter called him crying, telling him she was so proud of him when his dream came true and he became a gym owner and personal trainer to some of the top professional athletes in the business.

Ultimately what matters is not about how many times you fall down, what matters is getting back up, deciding what to do next, and moving confidently forward in the direction of achieving your dreams.

“Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”

HOUSTON MUNICIPAL COURTS ANNOUNCES SPRING AMNESTY PROGRAM

March 19th, 2019

The City of Houston Municipal Courts Department has announced the start of its Fresh Start Spring Amnesty Program. For the next three weeks, certain delinquent cases will be discounted to help citizens save money while resolving outstanding cases.

“Now is the perfect opportunity to start this spring season with a “Fresh” clean slate. If you have delinquent cases, you are urged to come forward and take advantage of these discounted rates,” said Judge J. Elaine Marshall, director and presiding judge of the Municipal Courts Department. “We are here to assist with Amnesty-eligible cases issued on or before February 1st. Put the past behind you and start fresh and if you have questions, please call us – we are here to help,” Judge Marshall said.

The Amnesty Program began Friday, March 15, at 8 a.m. and ends Saturday, April 6, at 11:59 p.m.  Any defendant who voluntarily appears at any Municipal Court location during the amnesty period will be permitted to resolve all of their eligible delinquent cases, including Failure to Appear (FTA) cases, and will not be subject to arrest.

Cases eligible for amnesty include cases that were delinquent prior to Feb. 1, 2019. Only the defendant named in the citation or his or her attorney can participate in the Amnesty Program. Bonding companies, friends, relatives, and spouses cannot make the amnesty request on behalf of someone else.

The Amnesty Program does not apply to a defendant that is in custody, previously adjudicated cases, parking citations, administrative violations, bond forfeitures, or civil cases. Individuals may call the Houston Helpline by dialing 3-1-1 or 713-837-0311 for questions about whether their specific case(s) is amnesty eligible.

Defendants may take advantage of the Amnesty Program by phone, U.S. Mail or in person at any Municipal Court location.

For additional information about Municipal Courts or court cases, visit the website at www.houstontx.gov/courts, or call the Houston Helpline at 3-1-1or 713-837-0311 if outside of Houston.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why are you doing this?
To resolve cases for which all other means of resolution have been unsuccessful and to assist the citizens of Houston with any lingering outstanding Municipal Court issues.

When does Amnesty begin?
The Amnesty Program began Friday, March 15 and ends at Saturday, April 6, 2019 at 11:59 p.m.

What kinds of cases are eligible for Amnesty rates?
Most delinquent traffic and non-traffic citations that were delinquent on or before Feb. 1, 2019 will be eligible for Amnesty discounts. Parking citations and Administrative violations are not eligible for Amnesty. Citizens may call 3-1-1 to find out if they have eligible Amnesty cases.

What do I do if I have a delinquent parking citation?
Parking citations are not eligible for Amnesty. For additional information or assistance regarding paying your parking citation, please call 311 or 713.837.0311.

How can I find out if I have warrants?
Dial Houston’s Helpline at 3-1-1, visit the website at www.houstontx.gov/courts or come in person at any City of Houston Municipal Court location.

What are my options if I find out that I have warrants?
You may pay the fines at the applicable Amnesty rates if your cases qualify. You may also be able to post a bond and have your case(s) reset for a new court date. You always have the option to seek legal advice from an attorney or come to any City of Houston Municipal Court location to speak with a judge.

If I come to court to pay, will I be arrested?
No.  The City Houston Municipal Courts will not arrest individuals who visit our courthouse to inquire about their delinquent cases.  We encourage everyone to come in voluntarily to resolve their cases.

If I want to pay for my delinquent cases/warrants, what are my payment options?
Payment options are as follows: Phone (3-1-1, 713-837-0311), U.S. Mail, or In-Person at any City of Houston Municipal Court location.

What forms of payment do you accept?
We accept cash, checks, money orders, and American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa.

After I pay, how long will it take to clear my driving record through DPS?
The City of Houston Municipal Courts Department will forward the information to DPS upon payment of your case(s). Please allow 5 to 7 business days for your driving record to clear through DPS.

City of Houston plans to start issuing reimbursement checks for Hurricane Harvey recovery

March 14th, 2019

The City of Houston is clearing hurdles to issue reimbursement checks for Harvey-related home repairs by the end of March.

On Wednesday, Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush approved the city’s request to reduce barriers for reimbursing homeowners. Also, City Council is expected to vote Wednesday, March 20 on a key set of homeowner contract documents that will allow the city’s to sign contracts with homeowners almost immediately.

“I have fought for the resources Houston needs to recover from Harvey, and now I’m fighting to make sure we get help to Houstonians without delay,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “In disaster recovery, there are a lot of challenges for homeowners including requirements set by state and federal agencies. I’m looking for ways to make the process smoother for everyone.”

The GLO authorized the city to use an additional method of verifying how much homeowners spent on recovery, by allowing homeowners to self-certify repair costs that are then verified by the city. The city and GLO still encourage homeowners to document recovery expenses with receipts when possible, while recognizing that self-certification will help speed the process. “We’re grateful to Commissioner Bush and the GLO for helping us reduce administrative burdens, while making sure that we’re good stewards of federal resources,” said Tom McCasland, the city’s Housing and Community Development Director.

Once City Council approves the standard contract forms for the Homeowner Assistance Program (HoAP), the Housing and Community Development Department will move forward with signing contracts with the first round of homeowners for the reimbursement program option. The city will then verify repair costs and begin issuing checks to eligible homeowners. “Our target is the end of March to start cutting checks for reimbursement,” McCasland said.

Homeowners interested in participating in HoAP or other Harvey recovery programs should take the Harvey Recovery Survey at www.recovery.houstontx.gov/survey or 832-393-0550. The Survey takes less than 15 minutes, doesn’t require any documents, and is the first step in accessing recovery programs. More information is available at www.recovery.houstontx.gov.

Funds for Harvey Recovery Programs are provided by the City of Houston and the Texas General Land Office through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program.

Recycling Collection Schedule Update

January 17th, 2019

HOUSTON – Please note the following adjustments to the City of Houston’s recycling collection schedule. Due to the schedule adjustments do not place your recycling (green) container at the curb until Wednesday or Saturday.

For future updates and collection schedules please visit our website, monitor our social media and 3-1-1 customer service center.

Thank you for your patience as we work on resolving this matter. Residents are also encouraged to take advantage of the six (6) neighborhood depositories closest to your home. For more department information visit www.houstonsolidwaste.gov

Saturday, January 19, 2019
Thursday’s & Friday’s A-Week Curbside Recycling pickup

Monday, January 21, 2019 (Martin Luther King Jr) 
CITY HOLIDAY: NO COLLECTION SERVICES. All facilities and services closed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 
Monday’s Garbage Collected.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Tuesday’s Garbage Collected.

Thursday, January 24, 2019
Thursday’s Garbage Collected.

Friday, January 25, 2019
Friday’s Garbage Collected.

Saturday, January 26, 2019
Monday’s & Tuesday’s B-Week Curbside Recycling pickup.

Sunday, January 27, 2019 
Thursday’s & Friday’s B-Week Curbside Recycling pickup.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019  
Monday’s & Tuesday’s A-Week Curbside Recycling pickup.

Saturday, February 2, 2019
Thursday’s & Friday’s A-Week Curbside Recycling pickup.

For more information about SWMD and our services, visit us at www.houstonsolidwaste.org, “LIKE” us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/houstonsolidwaste, follow us on Twitter @HoustonTrash, or call 3-1-1, the City of Houston’s Customer Service Helpline.

Recovery centers to provide federal aid for repair of homes damaged by Harvey

January 16th, 2019

The City of Houston has taken a critical step forward with the opening of four Housing Resource Centers, one in each quadrant of the city, to use $1.17 billion in federal aid to assist Houstonians whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

Anyone who may be eligible must first complete a survey:

  • Online at https://recovery.houstontx.gov
  • By phone at 832-393-0550 (Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
  • Or in person at any of the new centers (Northeast, 9551 N. Wayside, Houston 77028; Northwest, 13101 Northwest Freeway [Hwy. 290], Suite 101, Houston 77040; Southwest, 6464 Savoy Drive, Suite 110, Houston 77036; Southeast, 11550 Fuqua St., 3rd floor, Houston 77036)

Mobile outreach teams are also available to serve home-bound residents and others.

Please see the info flyer.

Mayor Sylvester Turner opened the Northeast center on Monday, encouraging community members to be ambassadors for the recovery effort to ensure that no eligible homeowner is left out.

The mayor told people in the packed room, “Our goal is to reach and serve as many of the affected homeowners as possible, especially those who are hardest to reach – our disadvantaged, senior citizens, those with limited English proficiency and those with special needs. We will not leave anyone behind.”

On the importance of taking the Harvey Recovery Survey, the mayor continued, “No one wants another delay in the process. The survey will help us understand each homeowner’s situation better and determine which program they may be eligible for.”

Tom McCasland, director of the City Housing and Community Development Department, emphasized that the city has moved quickly to ensure recovery was launched as soon as federal funds became available. McCasland said, “The contract for the money was signed on the 4 th , today is the 14 th – it’s 10 days later and we’re rolling out programs.”

The city will receive the $1.17 billion for housing recovery through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the State of Texas General Land Office.

The recovery funds include the Homeowner Assistance Program, which offers five program options including: 1) reimbursement for completed repairs, 2) homeowner-managed rehabilitation, 3) city-managed rehabilitation and reconstruction, 4) buyouts, and 5) interim mortgage assistance.

While priority will be given to low- and moderate-income homeowners, assistance is available to homeowners of all income levels.

To schedule a mobile outreach team, or for any additional information, please visit https://recovery.houstontx.gov or call the Harvey recovery hotline number 832-393-0550, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Housing Resource Centers hours of operation are:

  • Mondays – Tuesdays, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Wednesdays – Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Fridays, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Lane closure at 15600 Highway 3

August 29th, 2018

Houston City Councilman Dave Martin would like to make residents aware that the City of Public Works Department is replacing the air release valve vent pipe and manhole ring, frame and cover on the 42-inch water line at 15600 Old Galveston Road, beginning Monday, Aug. 27. The project is anticipated to be completed by Tuesday, September 11, 2018.

During construction, the outside southbound lane of the 15600 block of Old Galveston Road will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Drivers should expect reduced traffic speed through the channelized area during this time. To ensure driver and worker safety, traffic control measures will be in place at all times. The District E office has contacted the Houston Police Department’s Clear Lake Substation to ask that officers monitor the location and provide assistance with traffic control as needed.

For more information, contact the District E Office by emailing districte@houstontx.gov or by calling 832-393-3008.

Fabulous at 50!

August 1st, 2018

Summer birthday BFF’s Lara Bell and Roseann Rogers celebrated a big 5-0 on Wednesday, June 27 at Hotel Zaza Memorial City. Over 150 friends and family gathered to salute the fabulous 50th birthday of this dynamic duoH. Bell and Rogers have been celebrating their summer birthdays together for more than 20 years.

“At our 29th birthday parties, which were weeks apart and had pretty much the same people at each, we decided we would combine the summer celebrations and make it more fun and more fabulous,” said Bell.

For their 50th they decided for “cocktail cool celebration” by the pool at the new Hotel Zaza in Memorial City. Guests sipped Deep Eddy and Patron Specialty Vodka Drinks, while they nibbled on delicious appetizers which included Crispy Artichoke and Boursin Beignet with Tabasco Syrup, Mini Beef Wellington with Port Reduction, and Grilled Chipotle Chicken Skewer with Red Bell Pepper Jam.

“This year’s birthday celebration was extra special because we rekindled friendships from years gone by. It was like a reunion of former colleagues and dear friends. We are truly blessed!” added Rogers.

This isn’t the first time the duo celebrated their birthdays at Hotel ZaZa. In fact, Lara and Roseann celebrated their 41st birthday at the original hotel in the museum district. Their celebration was the first ever pool-side event when the hotel very first opened. Guests left the party with not only goody bags but with a late night snack, chicken sandwiches courtesy of Whataburger!

In lieu of gifts, Lara and Roseann encouraged friends and family to donate to KidsMeals. The two are co-chairing the 10th Anniversary Harvest Luncheon on Nov. 2. At last count, the donations were well past $2,500.

Seen in the chic crowd were loads of their media friends including Deborah Duncan, Alicia Smith, Myia Shay, Chita Craft, Laurette Veres, Warner Roberts, Laura and Ned Davenport, Richard Ray, Anthony Dowd, Suzy Bergner, Mary Beth Mosley, Dr. Angela Strum, Bruce Padilla, Shelby Kibodeaux, Kim Padgett, Sonia Soto, Suzanne and Adam Stiles, Michelle and Jeff Majewski, Christina Sacco, Bree Knodel, Page Parkes, and Edward Sanchez.

Houston’s Local Action Plan Open for Public Input Until June 21

June 8th, 2018

The City of Houston has released its draft local action plan for $1.15 billion in housing recovery funding. The plan is available for review and public comment from Thursday, June 7 through Thursday, June 21 and will be submitted to City Council for approval on June 27. The plan includes a local needs assessment, programs and budget, and spending timelines for $1,155,119,250 in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds.

“Hurricane Harvey hit hard for many Houstonians, but it didn’t break our spirit,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “With these recovery resources, our goal is to make historic progress in ensuring that every Houstonian has a safe, affordable place to live, and that our neighborhoods provide economic opportunities for Houstonians to thrive.”

Since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the availability of housing recovery funds in February, the City has been working with Harris County, the State of Texas, and the federal government to ensure that Houston gets its fair share of these resources and that they are locally controlled. Submitting a local action plan to the Texas General Land Office (GLO) is a requirement for Houston to receive this funding.

The Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) has been convening public meetings and focus groups to inform the development of the local action plan. Since April, HCDD has worked with civic groups, the Super Neighborhood Council, and City Council Members to host or participate in 17 community meetings, focus groups, and public events to get input on Houstonians’ recovery priorities.

“Houstonians must have a voice in their own recovery,” said Housing Director Tom McCasland. “Our department will continue to be out in the community, listening to people’s experience, concerns, and needs so that we can build a stronger, more resilient, and more equitable city.”

More than 600 people have participated in events focused on long-term recovery since April and 383 have taken HCDD’s recovery survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/HoustonHarveyRecovery. Additional meetings will be held throughout the comment period before the draft goes to City Council on June 27. A list of upcoming events is posted at www.houstontx.gov/housing and on the HCDD Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/HoustonHCDD.

Later this summer, Houston’s plan will be incorporated into the State of Texas Plan for Disaster Recovery: Hurricane Harvey – Round 1 as a substantial amendment. Harris County’s plan will be incorporated in the same amendment.

Public comments on the local action plan may be submitted by email to: Fatima.Wajahat@houstontx.gov or by mail: HCDD, ATTN: Fatima Wajahat, 601 Sawyer, Suite 400, Houston, TX 77007. View the draft Plan at:

To learn more about CDBG-DR and upcoming events related to disaster recovery, please call 832.394.6200 or visit www.houstontx.gov/housing.

Robert Lightfoot honored at RNASA Foundation Space Gala

May 9th, 2018

Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa presents the National Space Trophy to Robert Lightfoot, recently retired acting NASA administrator. RNASA photo

The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Foundation presented the 2018 National Space Trophy to Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s former acting administrator at its 32nd annual black-tie Space Awards Gala on April 27, 2018 at the Houston Hyatt Regency.

RNASA Foundation Chairman Rodolfo González welcomed the guests to gala, saying that RNASA’s mission is to encourage, recognize, honor and celebrate U.S. space achievements from across the entire country and across all sectors.” The Clear Brook High School JROTC Color Guard presented the colors, followed by Thomas Glass, first year baritone from Houston Grand Opera, who sang the National Anthem a cappella.

Reverend Michael Stone, St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church, gave the invocation.

After dinner, the program kicked off with a year-in-review film by Space City Films. John Zarrella, former CNN correspondent served as the emcee. “We are here tonight” he said, “in no small part to acknowledge the accomplishments of men and women behind the scenes. Tonight, we will honor many individuals who have made outstanding contributions to our space program.

Cindy Steele, NASA Public and Stakeholder Engagement Division chief, presented the 2018 Space Communicator Award to actor William Shatner, best known for his role as Capt. James Kirk of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, saying that “as a lifelong advocate of science and exploration, Mr. Shatner has inspired generations of young explorers.” Shatner accepted the honor via video, saying “the concept of space travel and exploration is one of great mysteries we humans can ponder. Space is the greatest mystery story of all.

Stellar Awards were presented to 29 individuals and 8 teams. The Stellar Award winners were announced by NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, who then presented them with engraved marble trophies donated by Orbital ATK. The Stellar Awards were presented in Early Career, Mid-Career, Late Career and Team categories.

NASA astronauts Scott Tingle, Drew Feustel, and Ricky Arnold sent a congratulatory message down from the International Space Station to Lightfoot on receiving the National Space Trophy, telling him “we wouldn’t be on this amazing laboratory in space today if it hadn’t been for your complete dedication to our mission and for your effectiveness in the many roles you held over your career. Our community thrives because of your commitment to safety and mission success. Robert, congratulations on this prestigious and well-deserved honor.

Ellen Ochoa, director of the Johnson Space Center, presented the prestigious 2018 National Space Trophy to Robert Lightfoot. In her introductory comments, Dr. Ochoa said “The many leadership roles that Robert Lightfoot has held and excelled at over his entire aerospace career made him the ideal person to lead NASA during the last 15 months.” While accepting the NST, Lightfoot said “…I really feel like I’ve been honored with the pinnacle of recognition in our business. This is the biggest award you could bestow on me, but really it is for this entire team and what we do. What we do every day makes a difference.

Lt. Gen Thomas P. Stafford, USAF (Ret.), Gemini and Apollo astronaut, and the 1993 National Space Trophy winner, presented an Omega speedmaster watch to Lightfoot, saying “The National Space Trophy is very well deserved. I followed you your whole career; it has been superb.”
Engility donated the portrait of Lightfoot by Pat Rawlings, which was on display at the gala and used as the cover of the souvenir program. The portrait will become part of the National Space Trophy display at Space Center Houston for one year.