Monday October 17th, 2005

Downtown Entertainment District extends hours to accomodate Astros fans...Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector says average Houston homeowners will see 7.6 percent increase in property taxes...Poll finds what drivers in different countries expect to pay for gasoline...

The Downtown Entertainment District had already been in "event" mode, planning a series of events centering around the forthcoming October 29th Halloween parade. The planning team has shifted its focus to the Astros for the championship series, signing on downtown restaurants and bars to extend hours. Joe Martin is chairman of the Downtown Entertainment District.

Joe Martin audio 1

That screen is at the corner of Main Street & Prairie. Martin says many businesses have extended their hours.

Joe Martin audio 2

The district anticipates an earlier crowd for happy hour and most establishments are offering food and drink specials throughout the evening. Martin says it's hard to estimate the economic impact of the championship series, or the World Series.

Joe Martin audio 3

The projection of the game on the side of a building is one vantage point, but the establishments in the Entertainment District will all be tuned in.

Joe Martin audio 4

The non-profit Downtown Entertainment District was established in 2003 to support business owners in the lower Main Street area.

An analysis by Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt shows ballooning property values and tax rates will combine for a 7.6 percent increase for the average Houston home. Bettencourt says the average tax bill has gone up by 118 percent in the past eight years, and this year's increase could be an average of $238 more for the average homeowner. A home appraised at $141,668 will see a tax burden of $3,376.

What's a fair price for a gallon of gasoline? An international AP-Ipsos poll finds that it depends on who you ask and where they live. While most Americans have been sweating about $3-a-gallon gasoline, they think $2 is pretty fair. Drivers in Britain might be hard-pressed to conceal a snicker. They pay about $6.40 and think $5 is fine. Spaniards would like to see gasoline for just over $3 a gallon. The number in France, Italy, Germany and South Korea is around $4. Australians and Canadians would like to see gas just under $3 a gallon. The United States has less than five percent of the world's population but consumes about 25 percent of the world's oil output. Many Europeans have found alternatives, but Americans remain addicted to cars.

An explosion at a Houston refinery sent one person to the hospital with minor burns. Jack Williams, a district chief with the Houston fire department, said the blast happened just after noon yesterday at the Lyondell-Citgo plant in southeastern Houston. He says the fire was contained by the time Houston firefighters arrived to assist the company. A contract worker injured in the blaze was taken to Memorial Hermann hospital. The worker, whose name was not released, suffered minor burns to his hands and arms but the injuries were not believed to be severe. The blaze, which was extinguished within an hour by firefighters with Lyondell-Citgo, started as workers were trying to restart a fluid catalytic cracking unit, which converts a diesel-like product into gasoline. No detectable concentration of anything harmful was found in the air from the blaze.

Lyondell-Citgo is shutting down its Houston refinery for repairs following the weekend fire. Reuters reports the unit could be shut for four to six weeks. The refinery had been running at a 50 percent rate in the wake of Hurricane Rita, but was increasing production. The refinery is a joint venture between Houston-based Lyondell Chemical and Houston-based Citgo Petroleum, which is owned by the Venezuelan state oil company.

Shell Deer Park Refining is operating at normal rates following its restart after Hurricane Rita. Shell Deer Park Chemical reports that it is at or near normal rates in most of its processing units.

Advertising and dueling consultant studies to try to settle a dispute over service in North Texas. Now their battle over whether to allow long-haul flights from Dallas Love Field has spilled over to an online encyclopedia. Southwest is based at Love Field and wants the 1979 flight-restricting Wright Amendment thrown out. American is based at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and thinks the amendment, which was enacted to promote DFW in its early years, should stand. Someone using an internet service provider registered to American-edited online encyclopedia Wikipedia last week to describe Southwest as "a notoriously litigious company constantly seeking to change laws to gain an advantage.'' Wikipedia's volunteer monitors deleted the phrases within hours and traced them to someone using a domain registered to American. American spokesman Tim Wagner says the changes were not something the company initiated or condone. He says American doesn't have an employee or contractor by the name of the person who sent the changes to Wikipedia. A spokesman for Southwest accepted American's explanation, but still wants to know who made the comments.

Jalapeno's at Kirby and Westheimer is closing at the end of the year to make way for development on the land where the restaurant has stood for 18 years, according to the Houston Business Journal. Construction on a residential and retail project at that location begins in January. Romero's The Courtyard on St. James at St. James Place will continue to serve many of Jalapeno's most popular dishes. The catering arm of Jalapeno's will relocate to The Courtyard.

Fiesta Mart has joined with Visa USA in launching the new Spanish-language financial wellness magazine Vias, which will be available free at Fiesta stores. The magazine will provide tips on how to educate children on the importance of money management, creating a budget, opening a checking account, starting a small business and planning for retirement. Some 20,000 magazines will be distributed in the Houston area. Vias has a national circulation of 100,000.

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