She will not only climb mountains, she will move them too

June 1st, 2019

Miss Houston Teen 2019, Rita Goebel and Miss Houston 2019, Blaine Ochoa.

By Blaine Ochoa 

Everything starts with a dream, a thought, a goal, a wish. When you want something in life, go for it, give it everything you’ve got, and when you believe in something, believe in it with your whole heart.

On Easter weekend April 20, I won the title of Miss Houston 2019. Becoming Miss Houston has been a dream of mine for the past 10 years.  It’s a very surreal feeling to see your dream come to life and daily live in your dream.

I’ve always believed “all things are possible with God” Matthew 19:26 and my mom has always called,  Philippians 4:13 – For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” my life verse.

Chasing after this dream for three and a half years has been a long journey. I’ve previously placed first runner up, and second runner up, and I’ve even fallen on stage. I’ve had a variety of ups and downs, setbacks and comebacks. It has been a challenging, emotional, exciting, and beautiful journey – the comeback is always stronger than the setback.
I’ve learned that we have to trust God’s perfect timing, even when we don’t understand. His ways are higher than our ways. I realize now that without those years of preparation, learning, changing, and growing, I wouldn’t have been ready to take on this great responsibility that I’ve been given. I am ready now, and I’ve never been more ready for this opportunity.

I’ve also learned that you have to believe in yourself and never give up. You have to know that you are good enough, strong enough, deserving, worthy, and capable of achieving your goals and dreams. Start where you are and give it your all each and every day. It takes a lot of courage, sometimes believing in yourself when no one else does. It takes stepping out in faith, when sometimes there is no clarity. The journey is not always easy, and life gets tough, but learn to persevere. Success requires discipline and resilience.

Ultimately, I’ve realized that this journey is not about me. Its about something bigger than myself. It’s about loving, helping, and encouraging others. It’s about the love of God that shines from the inside out. It’s about grace, faith, and overcoming.

I hope my story can inspire others to passionately pursue their dreams. I’m a girl from a little beach town, with humble beginnings, who believed in her self, never gave up, and believed that God could do incredible things in her life and use her in ways that only God could.

I am truly thankful for all that God has done in my life and what He is going to do. I’m honored, humbled, and beyond excited to represent the great city of Houston at Miss Texas USA 2020. I am very thankful to work with an incredible team to help me prepare for Miss Texas USA and train under the direction of the wonderful Crystle Stewart, Miss USA 2008.

I encourage everyone to be present in your life daily. Now is your time. Now is your moment. Dreams do come true, and the only way to make the impossible, possible, is to have faith.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton speaks of Texans’ Opportunity to Lead

June 1st, 2019

Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell, right, congratulates Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton for an outstanding speech at the BAHEP meeting.

By Kathryn Paradis

Without the aid of PowerPoint or notes of any kind, not even a few words scribbled on his hands, Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton delivered a dynamic, passionate speech to members of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership during its General Membership Meeting at the Clear Lake Hilton.

He spoke about The Opportunity to Lead, but his speech was about much more than leadership. First, however, it would be good to know a little of Sitton’s background. He is a mechanical engineering graduate of Texas A&M University. Elected Texas Railroad Commissioner on Nov. 4, 2014, to a six-year term, Sitton is the first engineer to serve as Railroad Commissioner in more than 50 years. In 2015, he was named one of the 40 most influential leaders under 40 in the Houston area. With nearly 20 years of experience in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries, Sitton is considered a leader in his field. He, no doubt, knows a little something about leadership.

He began by speaking of the tradition of the Aggie Muster, which he had attended the previous evening. He said that Aggies learn from the first day on campus about the importance of believing in something more important than themselves.

“The thing that makes Aggie Muster such a special tradition for us is that it is one of those examples that show how we as a society recognize service,” Sitton said. He later spoke of his own three children who are 10, 13 and 15 years old. He asked, “In the world that we live in today, at what point in our kids’ lives do they begin to learn the lesson that if you want to be successful in this world, you’ve got to make it about people other than yourself? What is it about your life that will echo beyond yourself?”

“When I talk about the opportunity to lead, it always starts with the opportunity to serve.” He explained that this is an historical point in time for Texas saying, “This state produces nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil per day, which is 5 percent of the world’s crude. Texas produces about 24 or 25 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. That’s close to 5 percent of the world’s natural gas. We refine along the Gulf Coast a little over 6 million barrels per day of crude oil. That’s 6 percent of the world’s refining capacity. Out of the Port of Corpus Christi, we export more crude oil than all of the other U.S. ports combined. We have over 30,000 miles of pipeline in the state. In the last five years, Texas has gone from a strong energy player to arguably the most dominant force on the planet. Energy requires massive industries to produce it effectively, and the State of Texas does it better than any other place on Earth.”

Sitton went on to ask, “Now, what do we do with that? We talk about the opportunity to lead, and opportunities come in a lot of different ways. We in Texas have the opportunity to leverage this position in energy like we haven’t done in a generation. We are changing the landscape in the world. The question is what do we do with that? How do we capitalize on that opportunity?”He said that the world is hungry for affordable, reliable energy that is produced safely, and Texas can provide that better than anyone else.

SHARE INPUT ON HOUSTON’S 2019 WATER CONSERVATION PLAN

May 28th, 2019

Houston Public Works is seeking public input on the proposed 2019 Water Conservation Plan. The Water Conservation Plan is a strategy to reduce water consumption in Houston. Water Conservation is important to ensure we have enough water for our growing population.

Houston’s population is projected to increase by 50% in the next 40-50 years. In addition, surrounding counties that have wholesale water accounts with Houston Water are also projected to double their population.

Houston Water is committed to provide safe and reliable water supplies to all customers. To do this, the city must work to conserve water.

Feedback will help make sure the proposed Water Conservation Plan is right for our community and guide future investments in water conservation programs. Public input can be made through an online survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/waterconservationplan or by emailing waterconservation@houstontx.gov

The online survey closes Friday, May 31st @ 5PM and should take no more than 2 minutes to complete.

 

ABOUT HOUSTON PUBLIC WORKS

Houston Public Works (www.HoustonPublicWorks.org) is the largest and most diverse public works organization in the country, responsible for creating a strong foundation for Houston to thrive. Houston Public Works is responsible for streets and drainage, production and distribution of water, collection, and treatment of wastewater, and permitting and regulation of public and private construction covering a 627-square mile service area. Houston Public Works is accredited by the American Public Works Association.

Facebook & Twitter: @HouPublicWorks

New Hobby Airport Display Encapsulates Spacesuit Evolution

May 2nd, 2019

The Exhibits team stands with the new EVA Suit Evolution exhibit that will educate and inspire visitors at Hobby Airport. Image Credit: NASA/James Blair

Travelers passing through Hobby Airport will enjoy new eye candy showcasing why Houston is affectionately dubbed “Space City.” The  recent installation of a new exhibit comparing two generations of spacesuit design will help connect NASA’s iconic past to Johnson Space Center’s next giant leap.

On the left of the Hobby Airport display, visitors will see a high-fidelity replica of a shuttle-era spacesuit, right down to the NASA “worm” logo. On the right is an identical counterpart to the suit used today on the International Space Station. For passing visitors, the exhibit serves as a bold welcome to Space City USA, symbolizing Houston’s leadership role in human space exploration. For curious travelers with a few moments to spare between flights, they will discover an evolution of engineering.

“The two spacesuits are the superstars of this display,” said Exhibits Program Manager Jack Moore of Johnson’s External Relations Office (ERO). “Using scrap materials and replica parts slated for disposal, David Hughes in the EVA [Extravehicular Activity] Office meticulously assembled the suits. He handcrafted each suit to look as though it was pulled right out of an official NASA photo from the era. No detail was overlooked—the color of the visors, glove configurations and period-specific patches—all lend credence to its authenticity.”

Assembling the display required a close working relationship between ERO and the EVA Office to get the details just right. While the ERO provided creative direction and craftsmanship to build the exhibit and safeguard the priceless artifacts within, the EVA Office was invested in ensuring the accuracy of the spacesuits and content, as well as finding the perfect home for the display.

“The case’s contemporary design was drafted by the late Larry Friend, an amazing talent and wonderful man on the COMIT [Communications, Outreach, Multimedia, and Information Technology Contract] Exhibits team,” Moore said. “The COMIT team completed his work by integrating elements to support the preservation of the suits, such as vented fans and museum-grade Lexan. Cindy Bush, our graphic designer on the project, also worked closely with the EVA Office to draft beautiful designs to convey the story. Using a visual timeline across a sloped face of the display, she highlighted major component modifications through the decades.”

The EVA Office was over the Moon about the finished display and recognized the entire Exhibits group in the weeks leading up to installation at Hobby Airport.

“We’ve worked over the last year or so with the [COMIT] team on designing displays that tell the story of EVA,” said Chris Hansen, manager of the EVA Office. “Their creativity and passion for the work they do is very evident in the products they produce. They understand that these displays are inspirational, and you can tell that they put their hearts into the work they’ve done for us. It’s great to have such a talented resource available to us—a resource that cares as much about the products they create for us as we do.”

While travelers taking to the friendly skies will be swept into a 3D visualization of explorers who have donned these types of spacesuits to explore even higher trajectories, there are still other stories to be told. The Moon is center stage once more, and generations young and old are waiting to be a part of NASA’s next big adventure.

The Hobby Airport exhibit is only one example of how we can highlight the important work done every day to support humans in space. As Moore explained, the team works with many organizations throughout the year to create exhibits that share the many facets of the center with the public.

“We have an incredibly talented pool of designers, craftsmen, project managers and writers waiting to start the next exciting project,” Moore said.

HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake launches innovative alternative to open heart surgery

May 2nd, 2019

The HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake cardiology team celebrates after the hospital’s first TAVR procedures.

This April, Houston’s Bay Area marked a major cardiology milestone as HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake launched its transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) service, successfully completing three procedures on its first day.

A relatively new procedure, TAVR replaces damaged aortic valves through a catheter in contrast to open-heart surgery in which surgeons cut open the chest to expose the heart. Typically, candidates for TAVR suffer from aortic stenosis, a common but serious valve problem in which the aortic valve opening narrows, dangerously restricting blood flow and affecting pressure in the heart.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved TAVR in 2012 for patients who are considered at high risk for open-heart surgery. In 2016, the FDA approved the procedure for patients at intermediate risk. Later this year, experts expect the agency to expand its approval to low-risk patients, which will dramatically increase the number of patients who qualify for TAVR.

Just this April, Rolling Stones rocker Mick Jagger underwent TAVR for his heart valve disease, raising awareness of the procedure’s benefits, including not needing to rely on a bypass machine and a faster recovery – one to two days instead of three to five.

The FDA imposes strict requirements for hospitals wishing to practice TAVR, including successfully completing a certain number of open heart, surgical aortic valve, catheter, and percutaneous coronary interventions per year. The heart hospital at HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake, the only dedicated heart hospital in the Bay Area, performs more than 1,000 heart procedures annually.

Surgeons Pranav Loyalka and Hannan Chaugle worked with a team of cardiologists to successfully perform HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake’s first TAVR procedures. Patients interested in learning more about TAVR and other cardiology services should call (888) 842-3627 for more information.

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.

Clear Lake’s Gemini Avenue to get facelift

March 13th, 2019

Houston City Council Member Dave Martin is pleased to announce Houston Public Works crews will be performing an asphalt overlay along Gemini Avenue from El Camino Real to Reseda Drive. Construction is scheduled to begin the week of March 25, 2019 and is expected to be complete by the end of June 2019, weather permitting.

The project will start in the 1000 block of Gemini Avenue and progress towards Reseda Drive. The scope of work includes resurfacing the asphalt street. This process includes milling off an approximate 2 inch layer of old asphalt, repairing the base as needed, spraying tack coat and overlaying 2 inches of new asphalt surface pavement. Crew staging activities are anticipated to occur between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., with work occurring between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

As a result of the construction activities, motorists are asked to be aware of flagmen and orange traffic cones that will be put in place on site to help with traffic flow through the construction zone as temporary lane closures are expected.

One lane will be open in each direction during peak traffic hours. Residents and businesses may experience temporary delays accessing Gemini Avenue, as well as individual driveways, and may experience an increase in noise levels because of trucks and equipment.

For more information, contact Council Member Dave Martin’s office at 832-393-3008 or districte@houstontx.gov.