Thursday, May 27, 2010

Behind Closed Doors - abuse is not confined to the spouse part 2

When you live in such a world, you look for a way out. I gravitated to the Bible as soon as I could read. I was self taught on many things, by reading and memorizing. I would find comfort in those pages. I learned the Lord’s Prayer on my own. When I was nine years old, I begged my mother to take us to church.  When I was 12, my mother began our regular attendance on Sunday mornings.  This helped my mental attitude significantly at first.
At one point, my dad’s brother and wife came to live with us while he looked for a job. His wife was 14 and the brother about 19 years old.  We planned a family outing to an amusement park.  My mother did not ask permission. When my father finally came home, he was furious that we were not there. He cooked some chili. When it was ready to eat and we were not there, he went into a rage. He kicked over the refrigerator and slung the chili all over the walls, curtains, and the floor; then he left the house.   We were all trembling in our boots, knowing that when he came home, there would be a terrible penalty to pay!  The minute he walked in the door he grabbed my mother by the hair and pulled her down the hall towards the bedroom. We could hear her screaming.  Someone had to do something to make this stop! My uncle shut the door to his bedroom and did nothing.   I went and got a knife, knowing I would not use it. It was to be a threat to emphasize my seriousness. No one intervened, so I took the responsibility to do it myself.  I ran down the hall with the knife in my hand screaming that I hoped the devil would get him, and that he would go to hell.   My uncle stopped me and took the knife out of my hand.  My father stopped beating my mother. I surprised him by my aggressiveness. My threat made a difference. That bad night ended, but I knew another earthquake could begin again at any minute.
At school I began to learn that my life was not normal. Talking to friends, their lives were much different.   I decided to make a plan for dealing with our dire circumstances. In this, I took on the role of a mother. I would include our neighbor as a resource the next time he beat my mother. My sister would run to the neighbor to get help.   In those days there were no shelters, no resources for a family to get help. We could have called the police, but my dad had taken care of that avenue according to his previous statements of control.  I was sure the neighbor would help. The neighbor came, but my father was very threatening and told her he was teaching his wife a lesson. It was a private family matter.  She left, unwilling to confront the situation.  I felt totally defeated!  Couldn’t anyone do something, anything to help us?
This was the normal cycle for years. Several times, it even got worse. Sometimes, he came home drunk, fetched his gun and shot it inside the house.  He could have killed any of us!  Surely our neighbors knew he was doing that. It made a lot of noise! No one ever came!
My mother took her plight to the church one day, thinking that her church friends would help her find a way out of the dilemma.  No, those people were adamant on their belief that once married, always married and under no circumstances should a person leave a spouse. We would just have to deal with it. The reward for enduring would come when Christ returned to the earth!
You know, with an alcoholic, your feelings just do not matter. Everything is about the alcoholic. He is the only one with needs, and they must be met! Over those years, I learned to be very intuitive. To this day you can sit me among a group of people, and I will instantly sense if there is any discord in the room.  I was thoroughly trained to do this, because I had to always know the “temperature” of my dad. It was imperative to know what was going on with him to keep myself safe.
 We could not have friends at the house because we never knew when the next episode would occur. Yes, he had a two week cycle, but sometimes it was shorter than that. We could not risk having a friend over to spend the night. That made us different in the eyes of our friends.
One summer, my legs stayed black and blue from "whippings" that my dad inflicted on me. My dad was the legislator, the judge and the executor. If his rules appeared to be broken, he would judge and give punishment. In this case, I was trying to get even with my brother for something he did to me and started chasing him. I could not catch him.  My dad commanded - come here! And then he beat me.  That certainly was not a spanking!
In the dating phase of my life, he lost that absolute control of my life. One time when I was 15, my boyfriend and I arrived at my home. We discovered that my dad was in the hospital.  We wanted to go see him. I asked my mom who was already at the hospital and she consented.   Upon arriving I told the innocent story about arriving at the house and then coming immediately to see how my dad was doing. My dad’s face showed disdain and immediately he yelled at my boyfriend to leave. We had broken a rule – we had been at the house alone for a few minutes.   He cursed me. He screamed as loud as he could so the entire hospital would resound with his voice.   My dad then got very quiet. He commanded me to sit in a chair and not move.  I did, but he asked me to bring him a newspaper. When I got near him, he hit me in the face with his fist.  I let out a scream that could be heard throughout the hospital. The nurse came running and pleaded with him to calm down.   She threatened to call the police. He arrogantly chastised her like he did all women. Who would have ever thought that such a totally innocent occurrence would turn into such a violent event?
I knew my voice would never be heard. When under such control, you listen and do not speak. One day, I went into the kitchen. My mother had cooked some eggs for my dad for breakfast. When I entered, he was pushing her face into the eggs on the floor where he had thrown them. He accused her of poisoning him because there was something red on them (they were fertilized). I asked him to stop. He chased me to the bathroom and started beating me as hard as he could with his fists. My hair rollers helped protect me that day, and I suppose his hands were pretty roughed up by them as well.
In September of my senior year, I was turning 18. The house rule? Kick them out of the house at 18; let them fend for their own.  I knew the rule, but I was a little older than the norm, because my birthday is in September. I had waited a year later than most children to start to school.  I decided that I needed to leave the house before he made me leave. I talked to the counselor at the school about my situation and told her about my father’s abusive behavior. I asked her about transferring my credits to another school.  I thought a family in the church might let me live with them.  I did not get any help. Instead, the counselor told the school secretary about my situation. She was my best friend’s mother! My best friend came to me and repeated the story I had just told the school counselor.   I was mortified and so ashamed that my friend knew!  Confidentiality did not exist. I lost my trust in everyone. The counselor did not ask about my siblings, nothing. It was a just a juicy story to be told.
My mom played a little game using us as a way out of trouble. To be able to get relief from attacks and a little appreciation from her husband, my mom would tattle on me. Then the two of them would gang up on me together. To be the object of rage was never a good thing. One day, he played this game with me to ensure I left the house for good. He accused me of leaving the door unlocked. I knew I never left the door unlocked but told him I would be extra careful.  Again, the next morning he made the same accusation.  When I told him I had locked the door, he hit me in the face with his fist.  That day I packed up and left, carrying my suitcase, walking down the street on a Sunday morning, crying with every step.   Eventually, I made it to my aunt’s house. I was without a home but my aunt gave me a room for the night.  A few days later, my mother’s friend who lived a few streets over, took me in until I could finish school. I wound up marrying my boyfriend and finishing school while living in an apartment in the school district. I wanted that. It was 1967.
I have lived many years beyond that. I had a difficult time early in my adult life, because I did not know how to communicate well with my husband.   My church provided stability to my life. I habitually attended church and classes, learning a great deal about life from the Bible. I told myself when I was 12 years old that I would never partake in violence and never marry an alcoholic. I broke the chain and kept that promise.  I did not want my children feeling like they lived along a fault line and be crying behind closed doors in fear or as a result of destructive abusive behaviors. 
In 1987 I began to attend Adult Children of Alcoholics and learned how to better deal with my past.  I learned to understand me. I also learned the role my mother had played in the family relationship.  I came to terms with the entire issue and put it behind me.  Over those years under my dad, I had lost faith in my mom and felt betrayed. I lived with the constant fear of losing my mom to my dad’s rages. I was always afraid to leave her with him. But afterward, I learned to be compassionate with people and became a prayer chaplain. I also practiced Yoga. Learning that I could control my mind helped me to overcome the trauma that made me play back those awful childhood events over and over.  Thanks to my fortunate discoveries in life, those mental replays no longer haunt me. The impact now is only evidenced in subtle ways.  I know myself and have recovered my life. I no longer consider myself a victim. Today, I tolerate my father.  Praying for him has made it possible to forgive him.
If I were asked to provide advice to a family in similar circumstances today, I would tell them to get as far away from the abuser as quickly as possible.  Today, there are wonderful family services available to help women and children of abuse.  Abused women need to break the cycle to save themselves and their children.
I learned over the years that there can be security in a home; one can predict what would most likely happen next; one does have control over one’s destiny and last but not least, one does not have to put up with violence behind her own closed door!

This story printed by permission of the victim, name of which is protected and held confidential by the author.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Behind Closed Doors - abuse is not confined to the spouse part 1

A true story by an abused survivor from behind closed doors ... part 1 of 2  ...
The horror of the recent earthquake in Haiti is much like the horror of growing up in an abusive home with an alcoholic father.  You never knew what was going to happen next…would you be safe, would you be fed, would you have a place to live, and would there be someone you could trust to help?
My first memory was when I was four years old, just old enough to begin to understand what was happening around me.  There was an emotional fire-storm going on the street in front of my grandparent’s home.  My mother and father where in the midst of an emotional melt down.  My father was drunk and about to drive away.  My mother was pleading with him to stay.  The screaming and crying bolted me into my first memory.  I was hysterical with fright.  My grandparents were holding me back as I fought to get to my parents.   That began my life…living in an earthquake zone where the ground could be ripped out from underneath me at any moment.
My father was an alcoholic from the day I first remember him. His temperament was to be known very well by me in the years to come. My dad was 21 years old, my mom 16. She was but a child herself. My dad was in his second marriage. His first one failed, but he had a child from it who did not live with us.
Controlling my mother and his children were top priority for him to feel safe and self-confident.  My mom could not be independent and make decisions for herself.  He made sure of that. What his family felt was not important. He owned them. They were in this world for him. For example, he would require permission for my mother to go to the store. He would check to make sure she had not left the house or had spent money on something he did not approve.  His rules cascaded to his children, with severe penalties for transgression.   A wide strapped belt hung over the door, always a reminder that he was in charge, that the family had better watch their step, and he would use it on anyone.
If I catch you cheating on me, I will kill you - a clear message and one he meant, was repeated often to my mother.   He wanted to make her feel powerless and subservient to him.  “Don’t bother calling the police because I have friends that are cops and they will swear that you are cheating on me.  I also have friends that will swear that you slept with them.  No one will believe anything you say.”
When I was six, the little table in the kitchen allowed three of us to eat at one time. I was sitting down and in the middle of a meal when dad came home from work. Mother was standing. He intervened and told me to stand up so my mom could eat. I said I was eating. He took that as “talkback” and slapped me to the ground, knocking me and the chair to the floor. This became the typical scene in our home.   His abusive control continued to worsen.   
That year, he abandoned all of us. He left our little house where I slept in the living room along with my brother and sister.  For three days we were without any money for food. We had to live on what little there was in the pantry.  We had no car and no means of support. This was another recollection of mine – how he played the game of dependency and taught the lessons of his supreme position in the household.  An aunt came to our rescue and paid our bus fare to travel from Texas to Illinois. She was such an angel to help!
 Over the next three months, he called and pleaded with my mother to return.   In time, she gave in and we returned to Texas.  She made him promise that if we returned, he would buy us a home.  After all, she did not have a means to support three children. He relinquished and made the deal.
Now we had bedrooms and privacy. Some level of stability came to my life. Each day, I looked forward to school.  School provided me with a life away from the abuse.   It was a temporary reprieve. Any break from the verbal and mental abuse was enthusiastically welcome.
My father couldn’t go any more than two weeks without an episode of all night drinking.    A typical weekend might be one where we would hear him returning in the early morning from a night of drinking.  His tires would screech as he sped around and around the block where we lived.  We knew the hour of reckoning was to come. I would place myself between two pieces of furniture to shield me from whatever violent act he would dream up.  He was mad, mad at the world, mad at us, mad at mother. He needed relief and that would come in some form of violence. I could do nothing but shield myself.  It could be verbal or physical abuse. Each time we felt his wrath. One night in a drunken stupor, he pulled out his gun and shot bullet holes in the walls of the house. Home was not a refuge but a place of wrongful reckoning.
One night he came home, felt the sheets on his side of the bed and accused my mother of cheating on him. His side of the bed was warm. His rage was instant and out of control.   We felt helpless. He threw her on the floor and kicked her over and over again with his boots.  We simply had to hide and wait for them to come to terms.  We could do nothing. This type of behavior occurred even when we had visiting relatives.  No one, not even his mother, his brothers, or his sisters would confront him. Everyone was afraid of him.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Behind Closed Doors - Articles to soon be published

I am interviewing three people with significant stories which reveal the nature of what happens behind the doors of abusive people. At this time, I do not know if all three will be abuse by alcoholics, but I do warn my readers, some of this can be quite upsetting to some people. These articles will be in the words of the victims, as much as possible.  The first article has been scheduled for tomorrow. It is rather lengthy, so I have divided it into two parts. The first will be the child's view of living in the dysfunctional home of an alcoholic man who abuses his wife and children. This case is presented by the victim of the abuse as a child and is told in the mature years of her life. I hope you like this, and find it valuable to you or to someone you know. Violence is not an enjoyable thing to confront, by a writer or the victim and often not the reader. Please take the time to read all of the article to understand what is likely occurring near your home, somewhere close.

These stories will be published in this main section of the Commentary.

A recovered alcoholic will normally be uncomfortable about it also.  If you are a recovered alcoholic who abused anyone in your family, I would be pleased if you would let me interview you and get your viewpoint.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sports facilities in The Woodlands

Are we doing it again? It looks more and more like we just want to look for solutions for being a business rather than solutions for our quality of living. This community was established for families to have a quality lifestyle in the forest, not be center of commercial draw for the Houston-Galveston area. Let's not  bring Town Center into the neighborhoods. Now we seem to want to be in the sports business. What will be next? Oh, I almost forgot - bicycles. That was another item on yesterday's board of directors meeting. What are the consequences? Traffic - more outsiders in our neighborhoods. 

Are we going to build another sports complex to be the best sports hosting facility in the area?  I was hoping for a focus on residents. I have heard from many residents that we have a shortage of sports fields for their children. Yes, we should host teams from the area, but what we should seek is capacity for our children to play sports, not capacity for regional or state events. What is our shortage? From what I have been able to ascertain, we need lacrosse and soccer fields, because the teams have the difficult, if not impossible task to schedule fields for our children.

We should not be the Montgomery sports field complex, and we should have cooperative agreements with nearby sports complexes. If we have capacity for our children and nearby developments and municipalities provide additional facilities, and that is not enough to host events for our children, then so be it. Go elsewhere.

Again, what are we doing? What is our goal? Listening to members of the board confuses me.  If the RUSH soccer organization needs to schedule a city-wide tournament, that is not our goal; that is theirs.  I see no reason for me and my neighbors to pay for a city-wide competition sports complex.  Let's make sure our families have the facilities they need, so they can enroll their children in sports activities. Let's not try to be the best in sports facilities. Some might say, " we can have a significant income from this. Do you know that a sports complex potentially has $2 million revenue generating capability?"  For what? Are we talking a national or even state sports complex? That certainly is not regional. I don't know about you, but all the years I took my children to play sports (and it was not YMCA), we never stayed at a hotel. We went to tournaments, but they were not in Dallas, except perhaps one state playoff, a once in a year event having a very limited attendance. This is another chance to spend money for something on an inflated justification. The alternative? Find out how many fields we need to take care of our youth and plan capacity accordingly. For Lacrosse, it was said that we should see a 10% growth per year. How is that? Why? It is up to staff to sort this out.  Personally, I question the local presentations of facts and hope the staff looks at this issue very close before recommending anything outlandish.

Although I support having playing fields for lacrosse and soccer, we must be careful to define the problem we are trying to solve before we solve it. When are we going to learn to do things one logical step at a time and think about the community rather than generating revenue?

We need tax reductions. Don't continue to pile on debt for commercial purposes. Let private enterprise take that role. Take care of our families and their children. Let's have focus.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Residents get what they deserve?

The Woodlands residents lost their potential 2011 tax exemption today, as the Township Board felt quite comfortable with the outcome of the election. Politics again played the adversary role and undercut the values of this community. One month passed by and not a thing changed except that the finance department did their work and essentially validated that it could be done but the rate might have to be raised if the budget remained the same. I asked last month for the board to be creative. It did nothing except reject the proposal! The same members of the board again voted in a block against this proposal. On the surface it appears to be "not my idea" thinking and a complete anti-resident mentality. Aren't you glad you voted for the incumbents? Now the board gets the chance to raise taxes and have a higher budget, all because of your loyalty to individuals and not The Woodlands.  Remember your answer? "... but he is my pastor ..." I now respond , "... but it is my money ...".

The opportunity was missed on May 8th.  Only two members of this board (and by the way the next board) voted to defer the exemption until next year. In the meantime, the Tax Assessor Collector will continue to raise the values of homes so that residents will pay more for bigger government spending, even in this depressed economy. We will wait to see what happens next in the township budget process. The outcome of today's meeting was predictable, so I suppose we all can see that the outcome of the budget process is also predictable. So in 2012 if you are still living here, you might get recognition for being a homeowner instead of a renter and get a little homestead break. For now, the board wants to spend more than a million dollars on the mounted "police", so a tourist has something to pet.

And yes, we continue to chase solutions to problems rather than define the problem first. Let's spend the tax payers money! It is a gift, just like leaving your car door unlocked.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Nonprofit organizations - must file form 990 with IRS by Monday

Every nonprofit organization with less than $25,000 per year income except churches must file form 990 by Monday or lose tax exempt status. This is from a law passed three years ago and Monday is the end of the deadline to file that form.  Village associations and others operating as tax exempt organizations will fit into this category. Check to make sure your organization has filed. This could apply to bird societies and many other groups if they have a 501 status with the IRS.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mobility according to TXDOT - planning for 2035

Traffic in The Woodlands, Texas is forever a problem. Today, I went to Beaumont and gave TXDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) my two cents on our future and put some monkeys on its back. Now we watch for the department to start swinging, a dance to the music of  dollars and sense later this fall.

We are definitely on the TXDOT map of consideration. Our planning district, or MPO, covers the cities of Houston, Galveston, Beaumont, Conroe, and Freeport. Out to the west, it extends to Brookshire. The MPO boundaries are on county lines. Over the next 25 years, the growth prediction for our county  is 100+%. Only three counties in the Houston MPO earn that distinction.  In 2035, we should have a population between 500,000 and 1,000,000. We are one of two counties in the Houston planning district which will have over 500,000 employed, other than Harris county.  30% of the employed living in our county will commute to Harris County.

Can we continue to rely on cars, van pools and buses to get to Houston? In my view, no! Not into 2035. We must recognize that the probability of being able to sustain current lifestyles in 25 years using gasoline or any combustible material in automobile engines in the volume we consume today, is just not practical. There are many reasons including the environment ( we have air that will be polluted more easily than Harris County because we lack the sea breezes ), prices of gasoline will be out of sight by then (resource may not even be available), automobiles will likely be electric-driven with shorter range capability, on and on. We must be planning light rail for commute to Houston within the next 12 years, if not sooner.  Redneck planning must be put aside; we have to begin to be smart in what we do. What bigger threat do we have to the community in the long term than these mobility issues?  

The "monkey" I took to TXDOT is derived from the need for a realistic sustainable mass transportation system between The Woodlands and Houston-Galveston area, from our need for a quality life that includes pedestrian mobility, and from our need to move place to place within The Woodlands conveniently. 

Since The Woodlands Parkway widening project is quickly dividing our community into two separate areas of pedestrian traffic, there are significant issues to overcome in the shorter time frame. We could divide The Woodlands into two pedestrian zones, north and south. In time that would grow to three - assuming Research Blvd also becomes a six lane divider as well.  On Woodlands Parkway, a need has emerged for a walkway over the road in one, probably two locations - Gosling in the short term and later at Branch Crossing where the 9th grade campus is located.  In time, we might also have a need for one at the far western edge of the community. It is expected in a few years that six lanes will be required on the entire parkway to support the western extension of the parkway and development on the western side of FM2978.  There are some who believe we will need 8 lanes on the eastern side, thereby requiring a significant removal of trees along the parkway. Pedestrian bridges over the parkway need to be wide enough and not too steep to adequately enable elderly electric carts, bicycles and walking/running by foot. Crossing Woodlands Parkway is now dangerous for those walking with children and the elderly. Some argue that our true need is to go under the road instead of over it, but cost will probably prohibit that. The aesthetics of such a structure is important.

What says TXDOT on this matter? It says we have three funding possibilities from the state - (1) CMAQ to improve the quality of air, (2) the ENHANCEMENT program for walk and bike trails, and (3) safety program. The safety program is unlikely to be of any help because someone has to get hurt first to demonstrate a problem actually exists. There is clear recognition that Montgomery County has a growing likelihood of the need for a mass transportation system.  TXDOT encourages us to pursue the bridges and suggest we work with the HGAC (Houston Galveston Area Council) who recently conducted a planning forum here, which I was unable to attend. TXDOT does have programs to encourage less pollution and alternative means of transportation.  

As an example of stressing the master plan, Indian Springs has no schools except a private one within its boundaries. All grades except intermediate and high school are accessible by foot or bike, but students must cross the 4-lane Gosling Rd, now with a speed limit of 45mph.  Intermediate grade children must now cross a 6-lane road to use their bicycle to those grade levels. Traffic is supposedly limited to a 45 MPH speed, but I see 60-70 mph often. A disaster is just waiting to happen.  Elderly people living in Panther Creek cross the road at Panther Creek and at Gosling, two equivalent locations, to access the Panther Creek Shopping Center. I've seen entire families navigating both locations on bicycle. Only one safe crossing is needed, in my opinion. Whichever is the preferred alternative would be utilized by all. I prefer the Gosling intersection, because it is nearest the grocery store.   

The Woodlands master plan is for pedestrians. Our enclave of 90,000 residents has become a hustle and bustle community where people think it is their right to travel at whatever speed they determine to travel. I have heard several people say they want the left lane to be the speed lane. Many actually believe speed does not kill and drivers can do whatever they want on the roads.  In actuality, the county has the responsibility to determine what is safe and what is not safe. Speed generates noise, safety issues, a higher automobile wind and a related spray of dust. Speed limits should be enforced at the "safe" speed, not 10 mph over that speed. 

TXDot says that our state will increase in population by 61% in the next 25 years. Houston will grow by the equivalent of 3/4 of a Houston by then. Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex will almost double in population. Keeping Texans mobile is a daunting task. Keeping The Woodlands a beautiful place with an exceptional quality lifestyle is our problem. Mobility vs lifestyle - where will that take us? Mobility is always first for the state, so we have the responsibility to deal with it now. TXDOT can condemn land to make way for highways or freeways. That is the reason I cannot sit back and wait for others, when there are no others stepping forward. Join me in this quest for quality. The threat exists!

Related Links
+ HGAC Livable Centers forum at Lone Star College
+ Texas Transportation Public Involvement Plan

Grand Parkway and its anticipated effect to The Woodlands

After reviewing the recent final decision on the parkway's F-2 segment preferred alternative layout plan, there are some thoughts to be shared with the residents of The Woodlands. Two direct interconnects with existing roads will be important to resolving some of the mobility issues of The Woodlands, Texas. Both connections should redirect some (hopefully much) of the Creekside Park traffic.

(1) Gosling Road - there will be an access road and a ramp to enter and exit the parkway south of Creekside Park on Gosling. That will provide excellent access for Creekside residents to I-45 and western-bound destinations. It should divert much of the commute traffic to Houston which currently uses The Woodlands Parkway via the Gosling bridge to the north of Creekside Park.  Gosling will need to be widened by Harris County to the parkway. 

(2) Kuykendahl Road - also to the north of Creekside Park will be an access road and ramps for the same purpose. This will be very useful to the residents in Montgomery County to the west of Kuykendahl. Access via 2978 is not very appealing unless 2978 is expanded and better traffic movement controls are provided to access the parkway.

Here in Montgomery County, we need the parkway as a relief valve for Gosling and Kuykendahl traffic. The parkway is still scheduled to be completed within the next four years. Apparently, some recent decisions in financing and management is shifting the responsibility of the parkway to the counties, in particular, Harris County. It will be a toll road.

Harris County is currently lengthening Gosling towards the south. The parkway will provide additional relief for that part of the county also.

Overall, I expect Gosling to remain heavily used by Creekside residents. Kuykendahl traffic will continue to rise as Creekside Park development progresses. With the added segment of Kuykendahl to 1488, Kuykendahl will develop into a road for through traffic between Montgomery and Harris counties.

This video is very revealing. It shows the plan for the F-2 segment as a flyover vision. Scroll down to the video. This total $3.8B project is massive and is an impressive example of how to communicate a large project to the public and include the public in determining the outcome. Amazingly, there were no comments by any Woodlands people or development company in its final deliberations (see record of decision). 

Do you know that at one point, there was a push to use highway 242 and FM1488 here in The Woodlands as the northern segment of the parkway? Yep, the reason it was not chosen was that it would not serve the targeted stakeholders in Harris County. Doing that would have violated the vision of the Parkway. Great planning and vision! This reveals the threat we have to The Woodlands Parkway and Highway 242 in the future. To play on an old saying, we are out of the woods for now, but believe me, we probably will not be in the future!

Pertinent Links
+ Schedule
+ Record of Decision - segment F-2
+ Video of segment F-2

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Next traffic valve opening to the outside world

Kuykendahl extension project will be started late this year. This project extending the road to 1488 will open up another convenient means to enter and exit The Woodlands. With that extension, we can expect more crime, more traffic and more noise because of easier access. When will this ever end? There are other projects slated which will affect the same end: (1) Harris County extension of Gosling Road to the south - currently being constructed. (2)  Montgomery County extension of Woodlands Parkway to 249 - right of way being acquired now,  (3) Montgomery County extension of Gosling to Conroe - future, (4)  Research Forest extension to Egypt Lane - becoming higher on the priority list, (5) 242 flyover to begin construction later this year.

Personally, I continue to seek the original vision for The Woodlands.  Keep the arteries in and out to a minimum and provide routes around The Woodlands. That is using I45, 1488, 2920 and 2978 for outside traffic.  Let's see some results by using the master plan for The Woodlands.  If our leadership continues to not take care of the future of this community, we might as well abandon it.

Secret Order of the Woodlands Road Utility District #1

This incredible utility district has been operating in secrecy for years. The story is unfolding as local government watch dogs seek openness in local government. Unbelievable as it seems, this year was the first recorded election of a utility that taxes $0.47 per $100 assessment on every business in The Woodlands. We need to open those books. The stakeholders are not only the taxpayers, but every resident of The Woodlands! Business owners who pay the taxes are generally not aware of its use. I don't know about you, but I want to see their books in detail, their plans for our roads, and the personal financial stakes that every individual on the prior board had.  Let's open this up. Who knows, it may all be legitimate and above board, but it certainly is not transparent. Annual financial reports required by law are available on request.

Three incumbents were ousted in the election by 24 voters. Who can vote? Only residents of the utility district. The district is made up of businesses, so how many residents are there anyway? Not many, but if we consider the lack of interest in voting in our community, there is an entire precinct with similar turnout numbers here in The Woodlands.

Now the kicker. The results are being contested in court by the ousted incumbents. The question is "Does the Residence Inn constitute legal residence?". Local residents are trying to take control of this independent government entity that has 75 million dollars of debt. Although I doubt the election will stand, I do respect the intent of the effort. The organization of this utility is simply irresponsible. It essentially reports to no one. This is a classic example of Texas politics at its worse, right here in our own backyard. It serves the community and has enabled road construction, but is that good or bad? Congestion - yes. Quality of life for the eastern part of The Woodlands, I don't think so. This utility district is an enabler for the development company and county.

Maintenance of our roads is a current issue. Montgomery County is strapped with a population that wants no higher taxes; therefore county road maintenance projects were deferred by deferring a bond election. There is a trend to shift those bonds to a special utility district instead, similar to The Woodlands Road Utility District #1.

How many times do citizens need to say - stop the fleecing of America! Turn the governments over to the hands of its constituents. In this case, those who are affected by the decisions of the Woodlands Utility District. Our lawmakers need to be more responsible than pass laws such as this. Imagine a tax district without voters! Ethics? Where are they? Maybe the work of a few can shake out whatever shadowy financial leakage we have from a government without apparent accountability.  That may be instinctive perception, but where there is instinct, there is often fact.    

Related articles:
Conroe Courier 
Fellow Residents Information site
Texas Watchdog website 
County Citizen website