honoring Cesar Chavez

Students gather to honor Cesar Chavez
— reported by KTRK ABC Channel 13

Nearly 100 people gathered at Brownsville’s city hall to mark the 40th anniversary of Cesar Chavez’s historic march in California from Delano to Sacramento. The march drew nationl attention to the plight of migrant farmworkers.

Thursday’s rally was organized by The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. It was the first of a weeklong series of events meant to honor the contributions of farmworkers.


HCC shortfall

HCC trustees make plans to cover shortfall
College finds itself in need of $67 million more than what voters agreed to in 2003

— reported by the Houston Chronicle

Houston Community College leaders told voters less than three years ago that they could complete a dozen construction projects for $151 million.

Turns out, the leaders are short roughly $67 million.

So HCC’s governing board moved Wednesday to close the gap with a series of financial maneuvers intended to preserve the voter-approved building plan without raising taxes.

In a 7-2 vote, the trustees signed off on a wide-ranging strategy that includes imposing a technology fee on students and delaying the planned renovation to the central campus, a 91-year-old building listed in the National Historic Register.

The trustees also rescinded a planned property tax break. Homeowners won’t be getting the extra 10 percent homestead exemption trustees had previously decided to give.


When voters approved the bond referendum in November 2003, college leaders promised to build or acquire seven new facilities, expand three and renovate two throughout the city, with the intention of adding 772,000 square feet to the college’s existing 2 million square feet.

A HCC study found at the time that the 53,000-student system averaged 66 square feet of space per full-time student, compared with the national urban norm of 110 square feet.

Before the election, University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray told trustees that voters would probably approve the measure, as long as the property tax rate wouldn’t increase more than 1.5 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

Ultimately, property owners in the college’s tax district agreed to pay an additional 1.57 cents per $100 assessed valuation for 25 years, or about $15.70 a year for a $100,000 house without homestead or other exemptions.


The trustees intend to close the gap by redirecting almost $38 million earmarked for renovation and expansion projects at the central and northeast campuses and borrowing against money set aside to maintain aging buildings.

Rescinding the planned homestead exemption would provide as much as $4 million annually for salary increases and other operating costs, Walker said.

Also, the new technology fee of $3.95 per semester credit hour would help to pay for $39 million in equipment, including $15 million that was initially part of the bond plan.

Texas to be targeted by hurricanes

Forecast: Hurricanes likely to target Texas coast
— reported by the Houston Chronicle

The Texas coast from Corpus Christi to the Louisiana border is likely to be the target of higher than normal hurricane activity over the next 10 years, private forecaster AccuWeather said today.

The 2006 hurricane season will be more active than normal and could bring a devastating storm to the U.S. Northeast also, the forecast said.

The outlook comes after the most costly hurricane season on record in 2005, with storms crippling New Orleans and other parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast and briefly knocking out a quarter of domestic fuel production.


The current storm cycle and above-normal water temperatures in the Atlantic are reminiscent of the pattern that produced the 1938 hurricane that struck Providence, Rhode Island, killing 600 people, Bastardi said.


prepare for Hurricane season

FEMA urges preparedness for hurricanes
— reported by the Pasadena Citizen

As the six-month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina nears, FEMA urges Texans and everyone throughout the Gulf Coast, to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.

This year is projected to be as bad as or worse than this past season, which brought devastating hurricanes like Katrina and Rita.


A long-range projection from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, predicts an above-average 17 named storms this season. Nine of these storms are expected to become hurricanes with three being at least category 3 or higher.

Hurricane preparedness reduces fear, anxiety and losses that accompany disasters. Communities, families and individuals should be prepared before a hurricane strikes. Representatives suggest putting together an emergency preparedness kit long before it is needed. Part of the reasoning for this is that supplies that are necessary will be much easier to come by before the threat of a hurricane actually exists.

Representatives from FEMA suggest that the following items be included, among others, in the emergency preparedness kit: a first-aid kit, extra prescription medications, written copies of prescriptions, other special medical items, important documents and records, photo IDs, proof of residence, information you may need to process insurance claims, cash (because power outages mean banks and ATM’s may be unavailable), a battery-operated radio, flashlights with extra batteries, phone numbers of family and friends, coolers for food and ice storage, paper plates, plastic utensils, manual can opener, knife, tools, booster cables, fire extinguisher, duct tape, tarp, and rope.

Experts recommend always keeping this kit in a centralized location for quick accessibility.

disaster response in Spanish

As the United States, and in particular the Gulf Coast states, prepare for Hurricane season in just two months, post-mortems continue on what was and wasn’t done last year.

Katrina and Rita have become synonymous with catastrophes (I almost wrote catastrophic disasters, but that seemed redundant).

One of the main concerns as we approach hurricane season is the lack of communication in Spanish. Being bilingual, I often take for granted that everyone understands English. However, that is not the case. And in these instances, where every minute counts, we have to do better.

Latinos hope next warning comes in Spanish
— reported by The Sun Herald


“The disaster response – both public and private – was a disaster for Latinos and other communities of color,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, the interest group that released the 23-page report Feb. 28.

The group faulted FEMA for having no plan to disseminate emergency information in any language but English. It also blasted FEMA personnel for making the wrong assumption that many of the Latino storm victims they encountered were illegal immigrants and thus ineligible for federal assistance.

That failing was compounded by the wrong assumption on the part of many legal Latino immigrants that if they accepted disaster relief, they would fall afoul of laws prohibiting them from becoming “public charges,” or immigrants deemed likely to become dependent on government welfare.

The report also criticized officials for not suspending immigration enforcement in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita. As evidence of the fear that resulted, the report cited the experience of Latino Memphis, a Tennessee community group that went to the area to help storm victims.


In response, the organization launched its a first-ever Spanish-language Web site – www.cruzrojaamericana.org. The Red Cross says that in the first couple of weeks after it was launched Aug. 15, more than 60,000 visitors downloaded hurricane-preparation information from the site.

The Red Cross is also actively recruiting Latino volunteers and board members.