In preparing a bio for my website, I began going through files, letters, minutes of meetings from over the past 12 years and looking at all the letters I wrote to Lee Brown, District I and the At-Large Council Members from back at this period I realized, I must have been a thorn in City Hall's side. However, I suppose the question is, did I do any good for my community. And I must say yes, we (myself and other community members) did.
I was born in 1960 in Pasadena Texas, the fourth of four boys. My father was an automobile mechanic, and mother went to work in the late 60’s at the local newspaper, the Pasadena Citizen. Graduating high school in three years in 1977, I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas. I moved back to Pasadena in 1979. After working and going to the University of Houston C.L.C. nights and weekends, I completed my course work in 1984, graduating in 1985 with a B.A. in Public Mgt.
After living in LaPorte and Clear Lake City, I moved into the Houston's inner city in 1985, and bought a small town home “apt” in the Montrose in 1987. I attended graduate school during these years, and completed 36 hours of the Graduate Public Admin. Program. I accepted a entry level position with the City of Houston in October of 1991. In 1993 I bought my first home in the East End on Forest Hill. A structure that had busted windows, no A/C, rodents, trash, etc. After putting years of sweat equity into improving the property, the home across the street came up for sale. It was a home with unique character built in 1927 which also needed considerable work. In 1998 I closed on the property and with some hired help, carried my belongings across the street to my new home. Shortly after moving in, I realized that because the property was on the corner and not so well insulated or built based on 1927 construction principles, there was considerably road noise from speeding vehicles, loud truck mufflers and the bass speakers that were installed in the vehicles. Although these road noises must have been apparent when I lived in the previous home, because of the newer construction it was less of a nuisance.
By 1999 I was writing letters to the City of Houston Mayor and Council Member for District I and At-Large council members . I must admit I was not to diplomatic with my letters and concerns, as I was not a politician, but a resident of the community who had by this time put years of my life into the trying to make the community better and was so frustrated because I did not have the quiet enjoyment of my home.
Quiet enjoyment can be defined as the right of every person, while within their home, business or other property, to be free from the regular, continuous, or ongoing intrusion of sounds, noises, or lights from which there is no effective escape while remaining at their home, business or other property.
Public nuisance affecting the quiet enjoyment of others shall be narrowly defined to include the following conduct and/or activities, occurring within or upon the curtilage of any business or public place: The intentional, regular, continuous, or ongoing outdoor operation of a radio, stereo, loudspeaker, or other sound amplifying devices or musical instruments of any kind playing music or speech or any kind, regardless of the content of the music or speech, from any stationary or mobile source, at such a volume, so that the sound level is above that of ordinary conversation in adjacent or nearby homes, businesses, or other property, or at such a frequency, so that the sound waves are felt in adjacent or nearby homes, business, or other property, after being given notice by any member of the city police department of a complaint from any person at or within an adjacent or nearby home, business, or other property that the sounds being produced result in the disturbance of the peace and quiet enjoyment of the complainant or any person therein.
My letters to the COH politicians were that in 1998 there were 78 calls to HPD regarding public nuisances in the Forest Hill subdivision, and in 1999 the calls increased to 348 calls and in 2001 there were 613 calls.
What’s the old saying “you can’t fight City Hall”, so in early 2001 I gave up trying to address these issues as a citizen, and instead took the issues to our local Civic Association and Superneighborhood Council. In February 2001, I attended my first Superneighborhood meeting and presented my stack of letters I had been writing to COH officials regarding public nuisances in the Forest Hill Subdivision. My concerns were well received as I was in a group of other East End community members who understood the issues.
In December of 2002, Carol Alvarado was elected to office as Council Member for District I. I then began addressing these problems to her office as committee chair appointed by the Eastwood Lawndale/Wayside Super Neighborhood Council and as Part of the Superneighborhood Council’s SNAP (Superneighborhood Action Plan) for traffic improvements in the Forest Hill subdivision to reduce the volume and speed of traffic.
During this 2002 election cycle, I created a neighborhood petition at the request of our community to have an audit of the $2,183,000 dollars spent to renovate Mason Park. The Mason Park audit evolved because Freddy Blanco the President of the Mason Park Advisory Council in 1997 had been in contact with the Parks Director Mr. Smith, discussing a gazebo project on an unused parcel of Mason Park separated by 75th Street. However by the end on the Mason Parks Renovation under the Parks to Standard Project, the Gazebo project was left out, as was other things, such as, additional lighting, new bathrooms, new a/c & Heating units, a new roof to stop the leaks and water ponding problems, landscape issues, and several other Problems.
Although the Audit request did result in having leaks in the roof fixed and the a/c repaired, I don’t believe much more was addressed. However, The Gazebo Project as it became known, really took hold with the East Lawndale Civic Association (ELCA) headed by myself as President and Freddy Blanco as Chair of the Gazebo Project. With the interest from Council Member Alvarado she was able to secure funding from government funding sources, requesting monies from Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Congressman Gene Green. The Gazebo Project has been built, and this was a long time coming as Freddy Blanco begun working on it in the late 90’s. Only the first stage has been complete, so keep a look out for future work there. Mason Park is a great asset to the Houston community.
In 2002 I was appointed committee chair of Traffic Concerns for the East Lawndale Civic Association and had little effect in addressing our concerns with elected officials. In February of 2003, I was elected president of the East Lawndale Civic Association (ELCA) and widened the issues and one of the earliest issues was to discuss the neighborhood concerns about Club Fantasia and the issues it presented to our community. Including the lack of parking, over flow parking on neighborhood streets, gun shots from the location late at night, intoxicated patrons walking to their vehicles disrupting the neighborhood, and the vehicular disruptive behavior of club patrons leaving this location at 2 am. In 2003 the ELCA filed a complaint with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission regarding the renewing of their liquor license. In November 2004, I received a letter from the Attorney representing the Club Fantasia, who had presented the Civic Association with architectural plans to enlarge the facility considerably. The redevelopment did not go though, perhaps because of the economy or funding, and Club Fantasia is still there causing havoc at 2 a.m. most nights.
In May 2004, as a last attempt to have something done regarding the cut through traffic over the Forest Hill bridge I contacted the COH’s Traffic Group to discuss the Neighborhood Traffic Program (NTP) and what can be done regarding cut through traffic. The ELCA was hoping to have this study done before the reconstruction of the Forest Hill Bridge in 2005, which do date has not happened. On May, 8. 2004 volunteers stationed at many corners on a Saturday morning began gathering to count cars as they came into and left the Forest Hill Subdivision. To say the least the study was a bust. I believe that because of the day of the study, on a Saturday, we had fewer cars cutting through because the surrounding neighborhoods are not going through there normal routine of going to work. The City had chosen the day and that put an end to that.
2003 and on was and is an exiting time for the East End, and a busy time for the Eastwood/Lawndale Wayside Superneighborhood. The economy was growing and speculation was high on redevelopment of the East End. Perry Homes had already developed some properties near Woodridge and Gulfgate, and were eying property at Telephone and Lawndale, (now KIPP). During this times I served a President of the Eastwood Lawndale/Wayside Super Neighborhood Council for several years.
One project the Greater Eastwood/Wayside/Lawndale Super Neighborhood hoped to spearhead was to have the old Cage Elementary building redeveloped with Historic Houston being a main tenant. One of Houston Independent School District's oldest buildings, the landmark at 1417 Telephone Road was the site the original site of the wood-framed W.A. Kirby School, which was built there in 1894. Rufus Cage sold an acre for the Cage school in 1909 and the four-room brick building was built the next year. We knew the importance of the building. It's in a historical section of Houston, and there is a lot of pride in the history. The Greater Eastwood/Wayside/Lawndale Super Neighborhood had hoped HISD would sell the former school at low cost to an organization that agreed to restore it. We had hoped that the historical structure could become headquarters for a nonprofit, preservation-minded organizations such as Historic Houston, which conducts seminars on area history. I stopped participating with the Superneighborhood group shortly before this project stalled, and I know the property is still for sale. I hope that the COH can realize the importance and possible use for this Historic structure for Houston’s future.
Another important project that effected the East End when I was President of the Superneighborhood, was the Harris County Flood Control District reworking the bayou and bridges on Sims Bayou. The Sims Bayou project was designed and constructed in an environmentally responsible manner, and an increasing number of birds and wildlife can already be seen along completed segments of the bayou and at the storm water detention basins. This resulted in aesthetically-pleasing slopes and plateaus for a more natural feel along the length of the bayou. Fish pools are being constructed along some segments of the project and trees are being planted to create habitat. HCFCD worked closely with the Superneighborhood and listened to what our communities wanted, including enhanced bridges to replace the ones to be torn down, more trees to be replaced, walking paths, and the creative use of a retention pond at Mason Park.
I know we have all experienced the problems of a bad neighbor, or homeowner who rents their house out. In 2001 I had a neighbor who bought a rent house directly across from me. The first residents he rented it to were two young women who were airline stewards. They had a Halloween Party, and during the night the partiers were jumping on car hoods and rolling off into the street, urinating in my front yard, music blasting, etc.. Finally, around 2 a.m., the police shut them down. This was not the last of many nuisances from these people, and although I tried to talk to the property owners, they couldn’t care less, and quite frankly said I don’ t belong in this neighborhood. They have since had three other tenants there, all will different issues, from debris collection in the back yard, parking on the grass, illegal use of drugs, one time they came home from a party and one individual fell out of the car when the door opened.
My point of mentioning this is that when new owners move into a neighborhood, they have a decision to make it a better neighborhood or not. These property owners made the decision to not, and it is sad that they do not respect their neighbors or community, but as many of these types of residents there may be, there are many others who meticulously maintain their property and respect their neighbors. I hear from people that is why they do not get involved in Civic Associations because invariable it results in confrontations. And it does, and this is why I am so disappointed that Mayor Parker has reduced funding in the Department of Neighborhoods and the 311 Helpline.
Another example of a war story while participating on the civic association is that as Deed Restriction chair in 2005 or so, I had a young couple come to the ELCA meeting saying how they were going to build a house and wanted to participate with the community. We had all these new “members” at the meeting, it appeared that the meeting was stacked. It was election time, so elections proceeded, the young women ran for president and lost, then she took the secretaries position. After the meeting her fiancé, got up into my face and verbally assaulted me, threatening to sue me etc, if he was not able to build town homes on this single family lot. Our Community Police Officer calmed him down and we left. This was the first and last time we saw them and then it took six months to get the secretaries records back from her father, a Harris County elected official and my immediate neighbor.
Shortly after this, specifically because of this incident, I resigned from the ELCA, as I could not believe someone who is a community volunteer would have to be subjected to this type of behavior. More recently the neighbor noted above, a Harris County elected official, called the police on me one night in July for throwing an unsolicited newspaper in the street, from the median. I had these papers stopped when I was President of the ELCA and apparently they started up. Although earlier I mentioned the hundreds of calls I placed to HPD regarding public nuisances in the Forest Hill Subdivision, none of my calls resulted in a ticket. After this politician makes one phone call three police cars arrive to give me a ticket for littering. I spoke with Captain Monzo in the HPD Eastside station trying to understand why the unsolicited newspapers can be thrown on the city easement without a problem, and I was lectured about Quality of Life Issues. Well by Monday morning I was on the phone to Neighborhood Protection to report this neighbor for having dead trees from Hurricane Ike needing to be picked up, debris of all sorts needing to be thrown out, and many other ordinance violations. Three months later he has almost finished cleaning up his property but he still has carpet hanging on his rear fence.
In January 2008, after leaving the City of Houston, I received my Real Estate Salesperson license. In 2010 I received my Real Estate Brokers License (Houston Real Estate Agency).