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Sugar Land

Sugar Land wants Google Fiber for Communities

Sugar Land joins Austin in making a concerted pitch to bring Google Fiber For Communities to their town.

“This project is suited to Sugar Land. Our population is highly educated. We have high standards,” said Sharlett Chowning, director of information technology in her presentation to City Council on Tuesday.

The proposed Internet speeds would be “like downloading a full-length 3D high-definition video in five minutes,” Chowning said.

Interested communities must submit an application by March 26, and the city’s department of information technology is working on Sugar Land’s submission.

Here’s the official city of Sugar Land web page on their effort, complete with logo, slogan, action items for individuals who want to get involved, and social media links. Are we gonna get in the game, Houston, or are we just going to sit back and let these other cities take the initiative?

More on the Sugar Land minor league baseball push

Here’s an update from the Chron to last week’s news about Sugar Land’s pursuit of a minor league baseball team.

The preliminary discussions about the ballpark put it in the Class AAA compatibility range, typically requiring a seating capacity at least in the high four-digits, but the exact capacity is among the features that will be sorted out during the 90-day period, which ends in mid-May.

Which league will make the expansion or relocation to Sugar Land is the biggest question.

For now, it seems clear it will not be a team affiliated with a major league club. Sugar Land is part of the territory controlled by the Astros, so they can block any move of a competitor’s minor league club, and they are not inclined to bring one of their own affiliates to the area, according to Thompson and Opening Day Partners chairman Peter Kirk.

What will most likely happen, assuming this does go forward, is for a team from one of the independent leagues – the Atlantic League and the American Association, which seems to be the better geographic fit, are mentioned – to move or create a team there. These are AAA teams, so you’ll get an overall better quality of baseball than you’d get from a lower-level farm team, but what you won’t get is a peek at the Astros of the future. Odds are you’ll get a number of recognizable names, guys who used to be on a major league team and are trying to catch on with one again. It ought to make for an interesting mix. The city and the developer are in a 90-day negotiating window with the intent of having a facility ready by Opening Day 2012, so we’ll know soon enough what will happen.

Sugar Land moves forward on getting a baseball team

They couldn’t get the Dynamo, but the city of Sugar Land is making progress on landing a baseball team.

The city council of Sugar Land agreed this week to work with a company that specializes in getting cities to build minor-league baseball parks and get teams to go in them.

The city approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Opening Day Partners that will provide an exclusive window for the two sides to forge a plan to build a stadium and see what level of minor-league team should be in it.

Sugar Land has already designated an entertainment district near Highway 59 (approved by voters in a special election) to hold the stadium, and the hope is to have it ready for the 2012 season, with public and private financing.

“This is a project that combines more than a decade of citizen surveys, parks master plans, City Comprehensive Plans and Economic Development plans with the efforts of a citizen task force,” Mayor James Thompson told Fort Bend Now. “We are looking forward to the possibility of working with Opening Day Partners to make our vision a reality.”

Cool. They’ve been working on this for at least two years now. Still a ways to go, but it is progress. I’d catch a game there when and if they succeed. Bob, Juanita, and Banjo have more.

Close the Sugar Land prison

Grits has a question.

Why not begin to close Texas’ oldest, most outdated prisons, particularly when locals would benefit from a “higher and better use” of the property and the state is looking to trim the budget?

At the top of his list is the 100 year old Central Unit in Sugar Land. Go read what he has to say and see if you agree, and see here for more on the topic.

Sneak preview of HMNS Sugar Land facility

You may have heard that the Houston Museum of Natural Science will be opening a site in Sugar Land on October 3. If you’re in the are Thursday afternoon, you can get a sneak preview of it as they finish up construction. Here are the details if you’re interested.

Join the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the City of Sugar Land, and Newland Communities for a special guided tour of the new satellite facility, the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land, opening Oct. 3. This project, the result of many years of planning and partnership, was made possible when Newland Communities donated the building to the City of Sugar Land and the Sugar Land 4B Corporation approved funding for the renovation of the former prison building into a shell of a world class museum to be operated by the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Dr. Carolyn Sumners, vice president for the physical sciences at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, will present the fascinating tale behind this historic prison building and give an overview of the floor plans and coming exhibitions before leading guests on a tour of the 43,000 square foot building and the surrounding 5.5 acres.

See where the state-of-the-art Science on a Sphere and Stan, the T-rex, will be installed. Walk through the space of the four permanent galleries, which will reflect the most popular exhibit areas of the main Museum campus. And, get a sneak peak at the view from the second floor where the special exhibit, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Exhibition, will be housed.

Tour takes 30 minutes to 1 hour. Staff will be on hand to answer questions before and after the tour. Please note: due to the construction, closed-toed shoes and long pants are required on site.

This takes place tomorrow – Thursday, August 27, at 4 PM, at the HMNS-Sugar Land campus, 13016 University Blvd. (at the corner of University and New Territory Blvds.) You can get directions here. Enjoy!

Pride

So yesterday was the annual Pride parade in Houston. It was greeted by this sweet article in the lifestyle section.

Today’s Pride Festival will celebrate the diversity of the Houston area’s thriving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

That diversity includes the determinedly domestic life that Ben Austin and Bill Thomasson have carved out with their two children in a southwestern suburb.

The walls of their roomy Sugar Land home are filled with family pictures — Thomasson is one of 11 siblings — as well as multiplication tables, maps and pennants of potential colleges. Not that Ava, 7, and Elijah, 6, are ready to think about college just yet. Elijah’s interests encompass the world of sports, while Ava is expert on all things canine.

The couple adopted the children from state authorities while living in Oakland, Calif., after taking required parent-training classes and fostering each of the children for more than a year. Ava was almost 4 when she entered the system, and Elijah was just a month old.

[…]

Austin, an adopted only child who went to Bellaire High School, met Thomasson in a gym in Oakland, Calif., in 2002. He says the two fell into domestication almost immediately and in April 2004 made it official with a domestic partnership. Both men wear wedding bands.

Both men played college baseball, which gets Elijah’s approval.

“He just thinks it’s better to have two dads because they both play baseball,” Austin says.

Gotta admit, that would be a bonus. The story made a nice and necessary counterweight to this remarkably self-loathing op-ed from Friday.

The gay parenting movement is still more evidence of the fundamental selfishness of post-Stonewall gay America. Whereas many gay couples can and do bring parentless children into their homes in an act of loving and giving, thousands of other gay couples who could have adopted use various technologies and arrangements to make babies that from the start have no mother or have no father. This cruel act — to one’s own child — is almost never criticized in the gay community, which is so focused on everyone’s freedom and self-esteem, it doesn’t seem to want to bother to notice that children are being hurt by being denied up front the right to have both a mother and a father.

The gay and lesbian community today is infected with what I like to call Equality Mania. That’s the belief that there is literally nothing more important than total equality between gays and straights, no matter what the costs. They are willing to sacrifice other good, important values in the name of gay equality — such as the religious freedom of same-sex marriage opponents, the welfare of children and (in the case of gays in the military) even national security.

I don’t even know where to begin. I mean, “Equality Mania”? Who knew a desire to be treated like everyone else was a disorder of some kind? I’m just dumbfounded. I think it’s safe to say this is an extreme minority position, one that’s in decline, but one that likely will never go away completely.

Anyway. To get the bad taste of that piece out of your mouth, here’s five great moments in Houston’s gay history, and here’s the news that the Caucus blog is back. Hope everyone had a happy weekend.

The science of smog

I thought this was a very interesting article about a current research project that is investigating the effect of industrial flares from refineries and chemical plants on ozone levels, but one bit of it really amazed me.

Industrial flares burn off pressurized gases but also can shoot out massive amounts of noxious emissions. The Houston area has about 400 flare stacks, and they are among the largest and least- understood sources of pollution in the region, researchers said.

A recent University of North Carolina study found that formaldehyde from flares may increase Houston’s ozone by as much as 30 parts per billion. In tandem with the pollution that blows into the region from elsewhere, that might be enough to keep Houston from meeting the new federal ozone limit of 75 parts per billion, scientists said.

The state’s current plan for reducing Houston’s smog doesn’t consider formaldehyde and other precursors.

“If there is a problem with flares, it upends the entire regulatory strategy,” said Harvey Jeffries, an atmospheric chemist who conducted the UNC study.

How is it that we’re just now getting around to studying this? I mean, anyone looking at one of those flares blazing away would automatically assume that’s putting a lot of nasty stuff into the atmosphere. I have a hard time understanding how come we don’t have a better handle on just how nasty the effects are. Am I missing something?

Oh, and by the way, living in the suburbs is no escape.

Twice in the past week, the Fort Bend County city has exceeded the federal limit for ozone, a critical threshold under the nation’s Clean Air Act.

And the forecast calls for more heavy smog today.

“Ozone obviously isn’t stopping at the Harris County line,” said Barry Lefer, an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Houston.

Until this smog season, which began in March, Fort Bend was the most populous county in Texas without a monitoring station to measure air pollution. At the request of County Judge Bob Hebert in January, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which is responsible for fighting ozone in smog-prone places including Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, agreed to help pay for a monitor at UH’s Sugar Land campus.

[…]

Some smog watchers said the early readings from the Sugar Land monitor underscore the need for more on the outskirts of the eight-county Houston region.

“These folks don’t know that they could have air-quality problems,” said Matthew Tejada, executive director of the clean-air advocacy group Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention.

I’m thinking the politics of clean air change considerably when places like Fort Bend start seeing it as their problem as well. You can run away from some problems, but you can’t hide from them forever.

Tough times for local governments

It’s gonna be a bad year.

They’re not feeling the economic storm quite yet, but local governments across the Houston region are hunkering down anyway. Some have frozen hiring, others have stopped filling potholes. Planned purchases of police cars, golf course mowers, Tasers and sewage equipment have been halted.

The caution infecting budget offices is universal, whether down south, where Galveston County is anticipating shrinking its budget by $5 million, or up north, where Montgomery County continues to rake in the tax dollars from growth. All are playing it safe, waiting for property reassessments and 2009 sales tax figures to come in before making any major decisions.

“We need to be watching every dollar that we spend,” said Cheryl Hunter, Texas City’s director of finance. The recession may have come to Southeast Texas late, but it has come. Public finance officers fear a future double-punch: lower tax revenues from a slower economy, combined with Hurricane Ike’s destructive effect on tax rolls in coastal towns, counties, and school districts. After years of growth and decreasing tax rates, budget officers now just want to hold on.

Texas City lowered tax rates for two years, but probably will not this year. The overall budget will stay flat. On hold: a $1 million renovation of the Texas City Museum, and a $5 million expansion of Moore Memorial Library.

Baytown, Freeport, Sugar Land, Katy and Metro already have declared hiring freezes. In Pearland, there is no official freeze, but officials have postponed filling 10 positions – four of them police officers.

“So far, from the recession we’re not seeing any (revenue) impacts yet,” said Pearland’s finance director, Claire Bogard. Rebuilding after Ike even gave sales taxes a boost, as did the opening of two new retail centers in Pearland. Nevertheless, Bogard ordered department heads to identify ways to trim 6 percent from the next budget, just in case.

Guess that means Bill King won’t be running for office in any of those places, either. All I can say is that I hope none of these local officials are counting on any help from Rick Perry. If he thinks the feds shouldn’t be helping state governments make ends meet, he’s unlikely to think any differently about the state helping the cities and counties. At least there’s a chance that the Lege could bypass him and share the largess, such as it may be.