Thursday, August 27, 2009

Woodlands resident and national congressman Kevin Brady speaks out on the Health Care Bill in Conroe Townhall Meeting

Last night, congressman Kevin Brady presented the proposed national health care plan to approximately 900 constituents at the Crighton Theatre in Conroe Texas. With a capacity of 500 occupants, those arriving early were the only ones initially able to participate. About 100 people left when turned away; the remaining 300 stayed, determined to have a say in the matter.

As Mr. Brady was speaking inside, many were outside in the heat talking and at times arguing. It was apparent that the story here was going to be outside. A representative came to speak to the crowd who was clamoring to get inside. Dressed in a suit, he stirred a reaction as you can see in these photographs. He is yelling to an attendee behind the crowd. 

There were liberals and conservatives attending this meeting. All wanted to speak out, of course some were against the message Mr. Brady was bringing to the meeting (otherwise known as  the ice cream social). This young man was shouting over the crowd to the Brady representative.

Mrs. Michelle Duffy pictured here waiting outside, wife of a medical doctor, near neighbors to Mr Brady, spoke out for the people as she brought her cost consciousness to the forefront.
Mr and Mrs Chris Lumpkin of Porter are "squarely opposed" to the bill.  "Quickness causes ill conceived results. Slow it down! We don't buy a house in one day." We have three children and are concerned about their future."  

Isabella Smith told her story. Her brother was in Brazil. He was diagnosed with a back problem, so he came here for treatment. One Cortisone shot cost $15,000. In Brazil, four shots using the same procedure costs $10,000. That is a six fold difference in cost. We need reform.

Betty Brown of Conroe wanted to be heard. Her mother died of Ovarian cancer. The hospital took everything she had. On her deathbed, they said "You owe us $80,000." Is that what you want to hear as you are leaving this world?

The police were challenged to enforce the fire code here as enthusiastic citizens were anxious to join the crowd inside. However, the crowd was behaved and their behavior met all the normal rules of orderly conduct.  
Finally, about 2/3 way through the first session, a representative came outside and told the crowd that the congressman had decided, with the permission of the owner of Crighton Theatre to conduct a second session for the remaining crowd. Everyone was asked to form a line as seen here. In less than 30 minutes after the theater emptied, we entered to have our turn with Mr. Brady.

As people left the theater, I took a quick random poll from about 20-30 people, young and old, men and women. About 95% said they were happy with what Mr. Brady said. one person said he was lying like all politicans do. One person said he was unhappy with what occurred.

Inside the theater, as the crowd was being seated, we were shown the matrix of organizations and interrelationships on an overhead projector (first photograph at top of this article). This was of course to show the complexity of the plan and how much beaurocracy would be entailed.
Some of Mr Brady's statements below reflect his views of the bill and what he would like to do about it. 
  • After this bill is passed, we will have 39 states with taxes greater than 1/2 of a person's income. That is the "Tipping point". Government gets more from the paycheck than the taxpayer himself. We must not let that happen.
  • This bill (holding a huge paper document) will increase health care costs. It It will not make health care affordable. We cannot afford this plan. There will be a $240 billion deficit in year one. That is just the start of this 1.3 trillion dollar bill. This will be liked an adjustable home loan rate – low at the beginning and affordable and then later very high and not affordable. A trap.
  • Medicare will be insolvent in 5 years. It is broken. This just piles costs on top of it. The Democrats are telling us that small businesses have had it too easy all these years. Now it's their turn to anti up. We actually need to lower small business taxes and enable them to employ people. That is at the heart of our economy.
  • Dean Heller amendment was voted down. That stated that if this bill is so great, then the congress should use that as well. Congress said “congress needs choices”.
  • What I say is that we need to fix medicare first and then when the government has proven it can manage the medical industry, then lets have a government run health care system. That is what I think.
  • No illegals, no college students, no person over $80000 income per year. They should pay their own way. Focus on the hard working middle/low income Americans. Provide jobs, don’t take them away. Small businesses with less than 10 employees, let them have the same discounts as corporate America.
  • I favor the backpack health plan where an employee chooses out of a list of available packages, carries it with him from job to job.
  • "“For the first time we have a chance to stop this bill. Send it back. We need to go back to the drawing board."
  • “I don’t believe a government run health care system is good for America.”
  • With this bill, “we will end up rationing care”, destroying the excellence we have enjoyed in medical care in the USA. 

Not all was so serious as we all got a good laugh when Michelle Duffy tried to take the microphone. Mrs Duffy wants health care reform and she is concerned about her child's financial future and health care.  Her son attends school with the congressman's child.

Can we just do what WE want to do? (referring to cessation from the union). Brady answered with -I don't know about cessation. We are working hard on this for America.

"The issue is our freedom and our rights! We don't appreciate your last minute stand on this issue. You are not allowed to make friends with the enemy"

This World War II Navy veteran was concerned about the behavior of Congress and the future of health care. "Divided we will fall." Get rid of the polarized bickering in Washington and fix the system.

Another gentleman said "Congressmen tell us what to do with our lives." We say "honor the constitution."

This lady brought a full copy of the legislation with her. She not only read it, she and some of her colleagues have analyzed it. She wanted Mr Brady to know that we can and are interested in every detail. Her two sided copy was not nearly as bulky as Mr Brady's. She handed him a copy of a page she was commenting about.

This author now says this about that. We are one nation under God with inherent rights to choose how we provide for ourselves.  No, the constitution does not say we must have health insurance, nor does it say we have the right to it. However, we know the shortcomings of government bureaucracies.  This bill has all flavors in it. Perhaps Mr Brady took a stand a bit late. I can't vouch for that, but starting right now, we all need to have a grasp on this legislation. Our congressman is recommending that we stand up and fight for our rights, not by email, but by physical presence at townhalls such as this.  Write your congressman and call for him to speak out and share with you the pluses and negatives. We cannot afford for congressmen to sit in glass houses thinking they have the solution for us unless we can tell them, "thank you for a job well done". Right now, the job has not been done. Never accept an incomplete project nor one with many fallacies.  What you see is what you will get. Don't expect Congress to come back and fix what they destroy. Any such bill must have checks and balances with taxpayer feedback and audits. It must have clear and measurable objectives with full accountability. Those responsible must put their money where their mouth is - they must be  takers of the new bureaucratic process and know for themselves and through their families without special privilege that they have done the right thing.

If I have offended anyone by quoting them incorrectly, I will be glad to correct  it. That inevitably happens, like water flowing downhill.

Click here to see all presentable photographs taken at the townhall meeting.    

Videos of other Townhall meetings elsewhere.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our work is recognized by Texas Parks and Wildlife

Be sure to read the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine this month. In the front section, there is an article on the Sweetgum Tree. Yours truly was interviewed for that article because of the work done on this website and quoted. Many people do not sufficiently appreciate this native tree. I do! I hope you see more value in it after reading the article.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Special Evening Budget Meeting for The Woodlands Township scheduled for Tuesday, August 18, 2009

To include as many stakeholders as possible, the Woodlands Township has scheduled an additional meeting where the public can have input in this pivotal first year of taxation. On Tuesday, August 18, 2009, at 6 p.m. at The Woodlands Emergency Training Center, located on I-45, just north of The Woodlands, a presentation by Don Norrell will be given to set the stage for resident comments. The meeting will be preceded by displays of public safety vehicles from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and give the public a chance to meet and greet public safety officials in whose hands we have given the responsibility to protect The Woodlands.

Township President Don Norrell will present an overview of the key issues to be considered for the first year of the consolidation of The Woodlands Township and the services previously provided by the Community Associations of The Woodlands. The Township board is expected to adopt the 2010 budget and set the ad valorem property tax rate at the end of the month.

This is a perfect opportunity to let your opinions or concerns be known. If you are happy with the budget proposal, you can state that. Those people who have been working hard to keep taxes low and service levels high would be grateful. If not, your concerns will be heard and considered. They will be equally grateful because their goal is to serve the community with what it deserves - excellence.

Public safety team members who will have vehicles and personnel on site include the The Woodlands Fire Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Montgomery County Constable Precinct 3, Alpha and Omega Mounted Patrol, Montgomery County Hospital District and EMS.

To reach The Woodlands Emergency Training Center, take exit 79 off of I45 north. If you are already on the feeder, take the I-45 feeder road north past the intersection with highway 242, north of Harper’s Landing. Turn right at the training center sign and follow the road to the end. Watch carefully because the road to the training center is easy to miss.

Click here for the Google map

Additional resources
1Budget 2010 Police Proposal
2 Township Budget and Overview
3Woodlands Townhall meeting on the 2010 budget
42010 Township proposed budget
5Bonds for capital budget 2010-2015
6Woodlands Taxes and Budget 2010 - thoughts
7Woodlands Township Budget official webpage

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Expansion of The Woodlands Parkway

Finally, work has begun on the expansion of The Woodlands Parkway to six lanes from Kuykendahl to east Panther Creek. This activity is in the hands of two contractors. Hassell Construction will be constructing both sides of the portion from East Panther Creek to Gosling, and South Coast will construct both sides of the western segment from Gosling to Kuykendahl. Both segments of the road are being constructed simultaneously. That way, the overall project will end sooner and the inconveniences will be gone sooner. A separate project is defined to enhance the bridge over Lake Woodlands to make a continuous parkway of six regular lanes from I45 to Kuykendahl. The status of that project is currently unknown. However, it is speculated that it would probably cost $100+ million and the county cannot help us, so we would have to pass a bond to finance it. I have been told that the bridge is wide enough to be re-stripped for six lanes. We shall see how it works out.

The current expansion project is scheduled to be completed in the first half of 2010. Depending on weather and circumstances, the work could go into the third quarter of 2010, or be completed ahead of mid year. This is funded partially by The Woodlands Road Utility District (RUD) and partially by the county. As you can now observe, some trees have to be removed to clear the entire right-of-way needed to build the new lane on each side. The first phase is to prepare the right-to-way. Next, the roadbed infrastructure will be constructed. There is already evidence of that phase progressing rapidly on the western end near Kuykendahl, heading east. Then the third phase will be the pouring of concrete and the final phase will be the alterations by the county on the intersections. We can expect the concrete to be in place for a long time before we will be able to use it. There appears to be preparations already underway at some intersections for the work at the intersections, but I don;t believe that work will occur early in the project.

The road bed material will be straight concrete. Apparently, there are no plans to lessen the surface noise with a different surface. That is disappointing. Residents don't have a lot to say in these projects. In fact, I don't think they get to say anything. We have association representatives and a township director assigned to the Chamber of Commerce meetings where mobility is discussed. There is little or no report outs. Resident representatives have told me they do not recall any meetings discussing these plans. The development company collects the money, makes the plans, lets the contracts and runs the projects. They have been kind enough to provide me with much of this information so that I could share it with you. The county partially funds most of our mobility projects. On this one, they have the intersections to configure, and they configure the traffic control system.

There will be no safety shoulders on the parkway on the eastern side of Kuykendahl after this project is completed. It will be the same as the segment from I45 to the Lake Woodlands bridge. As the project progresses, there will be an attempt to keep four lanes open during rush hours, but the roads will only have one open lane while much of it is being constructed. So you might want to find an alternative for some commutes, especially after school starts.

At some intersections, we will see additional turn lanes and and a change in pedestrian walkways. I am hopeful that there will be a change at West Panther Creek and at Gosling, to deploy the new smart crosswalk lights. This would enable a safer walk or bike ride and hopefully full use of the lights when pedestrians cross the parkway. It is evident that a better crosswalk is needed when you see elderly people in wheelchairs or little cars crossing when the lights are red, because they have to wait so long to cross. In fact, the wait can be so long now that almost anyone crossing the parkway has to do it by anticipating traffic and crossing while the pedestrian light is red.

The intersection at Gosling is expected to have additional turn lanes and hopefully longer turn lanes to enable full use of the three lanes on either side of the parkway. Currently, one lane is often blocked by traffic waiting to turn left, especially when traveling west in the evening. I see a work crew today working at the intersection of Cooper, but am unsure if it is related to the project.

Be careful driving along the parkway, especially in the evenings when there is a dramatic dropoff on the edge of the concrete. The development company's website has a short article on this project in the resident pages:
Development Company Resident Pages

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bank Robberies - what residents should know

It seems when I talk to people about crime, that bank robberies are the primary discussion point with home robberies coming a close second. I have come to understand the concerns of many people, so I thought I would write this little article to share my own thoughts on the subject. After discussing the issues with a few store owners, bank managers and various other people directly or indirectly involved who were willing to contribute their thoughts, I came to my own conclusions on the matter based on their stories and some of my own past experiences.

How many bank robberies have we had? Nine as of this moment, so nine times someone or some persons have entered a bank and told the tellers to give them all of their money. The average bank robbery takes about 75 seconds. Response from alerts are in the neighborhood of 2-5 minutes, even less sometimes. Typically a robber is in a bank barely over one minute. What do they want? The money, of course. What do they get? The money. There is a rise in bank robberies here in this general area as well as the Houston area. The problem is certainly not limited to The Woodlands. Most of the robberies are by one person, apparently a professional robber, using disguises. OK, now let's talk safety. Do they want to hurt someone? Not usually. No one has been injured. In fact and in general, they prefer that no customers be around.

How much are you at risk if you go into a bank? To know that, we need to know how many banks we have here. I can only guess. There is no point trying to count them. Let's say there are 20 stand-a-lone banks and another 20 in-store banks. The in-store banks are not as much of a target, because criminals do not want many witnesses and do not want to manage a bunch of people around them. They want the money and want to leave quickly.

You have the choice of going to one of these 40 banks to do business. Probably you will do business with only one bank company, so that limits your options. Now let's look at the amount of time you have to go into a bank and how long you would be there. Let's say a typical transaction takes 1 minute of your time and you are in line for 2 minutes. Add 2 more minutes to get into the bank and 2 minutes to leave. You may be on the premises for 7 minutes. Let's say you do this once a week. A standalone bank may be open for maybe 50 hours a week. That is 3000 minutes. So, if your bank is robbed once a week, in simplistic odds, you would have a 7 in 3000 chance each week of being there at the same time the robbers are there. There is another variable to this as well. Criminals like to pick times when the bank is not busy. So the chance of you being there is greatly diminished by that variable unless you never walk into the bank when there are other customers there. If the bank has not been robbed, then statistically, there is no risk. So you see where I am going with this. If I worked out a statistical equation with all the known variables, the risk of you being hurt is so minute, it would be incredible. In fact, we would have to use a statistic nationally to create any chance at all. Each variable would produce at least a factorial function in the equation to calculate your chance of being hurt. If you say you don't want to go to the bank because there are robberies, it is the same as saying you do not want to fly because there have been airplane crashes, with one exception. No one has been hurt in any of the incidents here, and rarely does it happen in a bank robbery. So as I noted, statistically, you almost cannot be hurt.

What do you do if you happen to be in a bank or present at any robbery? You simply avoid confrontation. Let the bandits do what they need to do to get their money. Be passive. The bank staff knows what to do. They are well trained. Follow their lead. If you get the chance, you may want to lie on the floor if you see a gun. People carry guns and some people will confront a robber, even though they should not risk your safety. If you have a license to carry, I advise not taking into a bank. You risk the health of others. Those who carry could be your worst enemy in such a situation. If the police arrive, you should be on the ground to help them, not being an obstruction or present yourself as a distraction, but exercise caution and do not move quickly or suddenly in the presence of the criminals. They will be very nervous. Not having an armed guard in a bank is for your safety. You may be less safe in a place with an armed guard. Anyway, the chance of you being hurt is very very very small.

The bottom line is that no matter where you are, you should always be aware of your surroundings and be mentally prepared for various situations, avoiding dangerous places. Park in lighted areas where there are non-suspicious people, lock you car, lock your house, set the alarms if you any, carry your keys in your hand as a weapon, or have some other measure you can exercise if physically threatened. Your cell phone can be a huge distraction. Use it appropriately. Don't be going around in parking lots or in stores without awareness of your surroundings and people about you. Texting on a cell phone in the parking lot? You may be the target of a criminal. These precautions are not singling us out here in The Woodlands. This is plain common sense you should use wherever you live and wherever you go. Some residents have relaxed their guard and provide opportunities for theft. Those who do are much more likely to be a victim of crime. We are not a place of high crime, but we are an urban area. Crime does and will exist here. We do not live in the country. Most of us do not live behind gates. We are no different than other urban areas, except we may know out neighbors better and have hometown relationships. Neighborhood Watch is a methodical way to establish a hometown relationship to prevent crime. It is advised that residents utilize that method to improve their neighborhood's vigilance.

It is not difficult to follow these guidelines. If you think you need more advice, maybe it would be good for you to research personal and property protection measures. Your safety is your responsibility. If you need police assistance with it, call the appropriate number - 911 for emergency, imminent danger or assistance required, or in The Woodlands, for non-emergency situations: 936-760-5800. Program these numbers into your cell and your home phone. Although you must use the emergency number sparingly, you will know when to use it and don't hesitate to do so when you know it is needed. If you question whether you should use it, generally you should not. At least that formula works well for me. Personally nothing has happened here to change the quality of my life. Be safe folks, but enjoy this place. It is one of the best places to live in the USA! Don't let fear rule your life. You be in control. Headlines are not alarms. They are simply what the news media think will generate the most sales in their newspapers.

Edited 08-17-09 to include information provided by Sgt Jenkins, Sheriff Dept.