Tag Archives: City of Houston

Houston Honors Community Leaders, Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

All too often when we turn on the news, we hear so much about people doing the bad things– someone who has committed a crime and escaped, another person that is going to jail, murderers, rapists and thieves.  Sadly, most media coverage of minority communities is especially guilty of focusing on the negative, while omitting the hard work of those trying to pave a better future.

This continuing imbalance is a huge part of why observations like Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), which goes from September 15th to October 15th of each year, are not only needed, but very relevant in contemporary American society.  It is a time for the nation to shine a light on the boundless contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans, and celebrate the culture’s place in our diverse society.

One way that the City of Houston celebrates this month is by recognizing outstanding community leaders with the Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Award.  Via the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, here’s information on this year’s honorees…


The 2015 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Award recipients are being honored with proclamations from Mayor Annise Parker today and October 6, 2015 at Houston City Hall.  Each honoree was selected based on his or her outstanding contributions toward enhancing the quality of life and advancement of Houston’s Hispanic community.

This year’s Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Award recipients are:

Lifetime Achievement Awards: Josefina Rendon and Jose Adan Trevino
Josefina Rendon was one of Harris County’s first Hispanic women attorneys and the first woman and first Hispanic Civic Service Commissioner for the City of Houston.  In 1983 she became Houston’s third Latina municipal court judge, where she still presides.  Her judicial career also includes becoming the first Latina Civil District Judge in Harris County.  Judge Rendon is the immediate past president of the Association for Conflict Resolution – Houston and past president of the Texas Association of Mediators.  She is a published author of over 100 articles and the recipient of both the Justice Frank Evans Award from the State Bar of Texas and the Susanne Adams Aware from the Texas Association of Mediators.

Jose Adan Trevino is founder and former President/CEO of Univision 45, Houston’s first Spanish language television station.  Trevino has also been a strong voice on behalf of the Hispanic community at the local and national levels.  He has served on many boards including the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Chancellor’s Council at the University of Texas-Austin, Houston Community College Foundation, Texas State Securities Board, Baylor College of Medicine, Governor’s Business Council and the Greater Houston Partnership.

Community Activist: Gilbert Garcia
Gilbert Garcia has enjoyed much success professionally, but he has also been a dedicated volunteer, leader and activist in the Houston Hispanic community.  In 2010, Garcia was appointed as the first Hispanic chairman of METRO.  Under his leadership, METRO has restored its public image, repaired its relationship with the Federal Transit Administration, improved customer service, obtained voter approval for more funding, expanded light rail service to the Hispanic community and received the Gold Leadership Circle Award for transparency from the Texas State Comptroller.  His volunteer work includes countless hours of service on difference nonprofit boards and fundraising for community improvement efforts and organizations that benefit the Hispanic community.

Education in the Community: Gloria Zenteno
Gloria Zenteno founded Barrio Dogs in 2010 after she moved back to the East End and witnessed homeless, neglected and mistreated animals seemingly everywhere.  The organization stresses the importance of spaying and neutering pets and encourages residents to report animal abuse or neglect to authorities.  By working in community centers and schools and holding events at civic association meetings and parks, Barrio Dogs spreads its message to the larger community.  Zenteno’s hard work and commitment to her East End community and to its animals are obvious and serve as a great example for others to follow.

Youth Activist: James Lee
James Lee is the public affairs field specialist for Legacy Community Health.  While a student at the University of Houston (UH), he founded LGBT Advocates, the first undergraduate political organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.  As the leader of the organization, he worked to expand UH’s nondiscrimination policy to include protections for all LGBT students.  As a member of the UH Student Government Association, Lee also advocated on behalf of undocumented students and for revisions to academic policy regarding mental health.  His work in the area of healthcare policy advocacy has been recognized by the Texas Freedom Network, which honored Lee with the 2012 Samantha Smoot Activist Award.

Art in the Community: Daniel Bustamante
Daniel Bustamante is Executive Director of the Greater Houston Fair Housing Center and a founding member of the Multicultural Arts Cooperative of Houston. He is an experienced producer, director and administrator of festivals, tours, television, community programs and special events.  Bustamante’s record of community service spans nearly 40 years and includes being a founding member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s Go Tejano Committee, membership in the Houston Association of Hispanic Media Professionals and serving as chair of the Casa de Amigos Health Clinic Advisory Council.  He has been founded, produced or directed a dozen local shows and festivals.


2015 marks the 10th year of this prestigious group of awards.  Here’s the list of past honorees.

These citizens are working everyday to improve the lives of Houstonians, and it is great to see them recognized for all that they do.  A special congratulations to Josefina Rendon, Jose Adam Trevino, Daniel Bustamante, Gloria Zenteno, Gilbert Garcia and James Lee.

Beyond these awards, there are lots of special events happening throughout Houston for Hispanic Heritage Month.  For more information, check out this great calendar compiled by Hispanic Houston.



2015 Hispanic Heritage Honorees pose with City Council Members, and citizens on the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board.  Photo credit:  Victoria Lara via Facebook.  


HCDP Chair Lane Lewis To Run For Houston City Council

In the realm of partisan politics, Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis has proven himself one of the most influential and effective Democrats in the state of Texas.  Under his leadership, the state’s largest county voted majority Democratic in 3 straight electoral cycles.

But this week, Houstonians have learned that Lewis will turn his attention to the non-partisan arena in 2014.  Here’s the story directly from the Houston Chronicle

Harris County Democratic Party chair Lane Lewis will run for an at-large city council position, he told Democratic activists Wednesday evening.

Lewis, who has led the county’s party operation since 2011, is running to succeed Stephen Costello in At-Large Position 1, one of two open-seat at-large races next year. Lewis will remain party chair during his campaign.

Several other candidates already have appointed campaign treasurers in advance of runs for at-large positions, though only Philippe Nassif, a local Democratic activist, has specified that he will run for Position 1.

The announcement will almost certainly cause some significant changes to dynamics in the City Council races.  Like fellow bloggers Texpatriate, Dos Centavos and Off the Kuff, I too am left to wonder why so many candidates are leaning towards the At-Large 1 seat as opposed to At-Large 4.  Both seats will be open for the 2015 election cycle.  But with Lewis in the hunt for AL-1, there is no doubt that many Democrats will steer towards AL-4 to avoid potential conflicts.

As for Lewis himself, he benefits from a strong record of accomplishments, city-wide name ID and a massive infrastructure that would readily support his campaign.  Indeed a world of difference from 2009 when he last ran for the District A seat and was beaten by current Council Member Brenda Stardig.  Of course anything can happen in the next eleven months, but at this point, chances look good for Lane Lewis’ run at City Council.

Smart phone app for Houston Job seekers Launches

Houston is a city with an affinity for forward motion, and Mayor Annise Parker’s new initiative is no exception. In an effort to arm Houston job seekers and employers with a new, 21st century way to connect, the Mayor announced the launch of the ‘Tweet My Jobs Houston’ smart phone app. Now job searches can be hyper-localized thanks to the geo-location software of the smart phone app. If the effort is successful, it will help people connect with jobs in their area at an even greater rate of accuracy.

Here is an excerpt from the city’s official press release…

Houston, TX (April 26, 2013) – Mayor Annise D. Parker announced the launch of “TweetMyJobs Houston!” during today’s State of the City address. This new online jobs platform, powered by TweetMyJobs, revolutionizes recruitment by incorporating mobile and social media. “TweetMyJobs Houston!” is the connective thread that will distribute jobs throughout the greater Houston area and match qualified job seekers with employers. It will also produce hyper-local analytics to help facilitate executive decisions by government and business entities thereby enhancing and fostering future job growth in the Houston metro area.

“Houston is the biggest economic success story in America, however; as you know, the best can always get better,” said Mayor Parker. “That is why I’m launching ‘TweetMyJobs Houston!’ a free, interactive jobs initiative geared to match qualified job seekers with thriving Houston businesses.” The public-private partnership model is a solution for many small to mid-size businesses with limited recruitment budgets as well as recent college-graduates from our booming higher education communities that now need jobs.

By adopting the TweetMyJobs platform, Houstonians will have access to relevant opportunities instantly and directly. Houston based employers will be able to reach quality candidates in a fast, efficient and affordable way. “TweetMyJobs Houston!” includes more than 150,000 jobs in all industries at all levels of employment, from entry level to C-Suite positions in the Houston metro area. The platform is not limited to specific demographics, in fact, “TweetMyJobs Houston!” is a tool for all Houstonians.

Available at www.Houston.TweetMyJobs.com or at the App Store for your mobile device, getting started is as fast and easy as pushing a button to find jobs. Likewise, employers can instantly distribute their job listings to every corner of the digital landscape. “TweetMyJobs Houston!” leverages social media to drive local employment solutions. Job seekers can choose to receive job notifications “pushed” to them via text message on their phone, email or through social media networks like Twitter. The platform is also integrated with Facebook so that job seekers can easily see if any of their friends are connected with the hiring company. Through the site seekers can request a referral from their friend to the hiring company, making their chances of getting the job 20 times higher.

Houston’s Chapter 42: City Response

As city government leaders continue the debate for Houston’s future growth and development, many residents have lots of questions for how these changes will affect their area. The first major move to address those issues is likely to come to a City Council vote on April 24th… an expansion and re-vamp of Houston’s Chapter 42 ordinance. After addressing some of my concerns in this previous post regarding Chapter 42, here’s a response from Brian Crimmins, Chief-of-Staff for the City of Houston Planning Department.

The City and the Houston Super Neighborhood Alliance (SNA) are almost to a final agreement on the SNA Top Ten Concerns related to development. Most of these items are outside Chapter 42, so the City has been working outside of the Chapter 42 amendment process to address them. The main outstanding item is related to drainage – specifically, grandfathering of drainage and drainage requirements for parcels less than 15,000 SF. CM Costello’s office has been taking the lead on the issue of drainage.

Chapter 42 and the Construction Code were both amended in late 2011 to establish buffering requirements when a development is proposed that is over 75 feet in height, is located along a local or collector street, and abuts single-family residential. This was in response to the “Ashby High-rise” project. You can find out more about the Residential Buffering Ordinance here.

The amendments to Chapter 42 would actually encourage more single-family residential in areas outside Loop 610. The current “urban rules” deal primarily with the density of single-family residential and have no impact on the location of high-rise or multi-family residential. Multi-family can currently build anywhere in the city – both inside and outside of Loop 610 – under the same rules and standards. When people talk about “high-density” related to Chapter 42, most do not realize that it is helping to make single-family a more attractive option than multi-family.

Yes, housing prices in some “popular” areas have increased, however many areas in the city (including areas within the loop) remain affordable to a wide range of residents. The Chapter 42 amendments will create more flexible options for housing products moving forward, and therefore create more flexible home prices across the board. At the end of the day, however, home prices will continue to be market driven – hot spots will continue to see increases or remain higher than other areas of the city.

We have worked with the Department of Public Works & Engineering, as well as the Houston Fire Department to establish the new rules. They are a great improvement to safety and design standards over existing standards.

Beyond general comments, Mr. Crimmins also answered a couple of specific questions I had regarding the proposed ordinance and amendments…

How will the following issues be addressed in Mayor Parker’s plans for the new (and I assume, updated) ordinance?

Q: Building materials. I am particularly concerned that there seems to be lots of “cheap” construction being built inside the loop… wood-frame housing, construction that cuts corners and doesn’t plan for the future of the area. I haven’t done any formal comparisons, but I have encountered much construction that seems to be “sub-par”. Does the newer version of Chapter 42 address this?

A: Chapter 42 does not regulate the construction material for buildings, rather it focuses on how land can be subdivided and assembled for future development. These requirements are found in documents established by national or international organizations that have been adopted by the City of Houston. The most recognizable of these is the 2006 International Building Code and 2006 International Residential Code published by the International Code Council. Other codes we use include the 2006 International Fire Code, 2006 Uniform Mechanical Code, 2006 Uniform Plumbing Code, 2011 National Electrical Code, and the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code. The City has adopted amendments to these documents that can be found here. Each of these standards is reviewed by the Department of Public Works & Engineering and will not be changed as part of the Chapter 42 process. If you notice a development being constructed with what appears to be “sub-par” construction methods, please report the project to 311 and the City will send an inspector out as needed.

Q: Sidewalks and street maintenance. Of course, this is a continuing issue within Houston, simply because our streets are just not uniform. I do see that Chapter 42 addresses streets to plan for pedestrian needs, but even it doesn’t go so far as to mandate how these sidewalks are structured with regard to existing utility poles, meters, and any other existing impediments. I’ve seen many shortcuts around this as well (thinking more about an area like EaDo which is building many townhomes brand new from formerly vacant lots). How is the ordinance improved to consider this?

A: Chapter 42 does not regulate the construction and/or maintenance of sidewalks or streets. The ordinance does make reference to sidewalks for certain “performance standards” to get automatic reductions to the typical requirements; however it is the Public Works & Engineering Infrastructure Design Manual (IDM) that formally sets the criteria for public infrastructure in the city.

With the Chapter 42 amendments we will be requiring that new single-family residential development be required to provide an existing conditions survey at the subdivision plat stage. This survey will detail conditions in the right of way and help the City identify potential concerns earlier in the process. With respect to the utility poles, meters, and other impediments that might be added later, we are working on a couple different avenues. First, the City is drafting an agreement with CenterPoint on collaboration in a number of areas including a 50 year plan to bury overhead power lines. We are in the process of developing an Inter-local Agreement that will be brought to a Council Committee in the 2nd quarter. Also, a Planning Commission committee is reviewing the location and design criteria for group mail boxes and group meter boards. They will develop an appropriate strategy, i.e. amend rules or education by June 2013.

First of all, I want to take the opportunity to thank Justin Concepcion, Social Media Coordinator for the Mayor’s Office, and Mr. Crimmins for the detailed response. It is always helpful to hear the city’s perspective and get clarity on the situation with the ordinance. The response also helps to provide a better understanding of exactly what is in the scope of Chapter 42. It is certainly not a “zoning” ordinance in the traditional sense of the word, but given the long history of how Houston has managed to avoid so many of these issues, it seems like a step in the right direction. It’s also helpful to see Chapter 42 in the context of more comprehensive plans to tackle a legacy of “anything goes” development culture.

I suppose you have to start somewhere.