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New Program Helps Veterans At County Jail, Congressman Pete Olson Won’t Seek Re-Election, New Development In Maleah Davis Case, And More

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez with inmates at the unveiling of the “Brothers in Arms” program at the Harris County jail.

New Program Helps Veteran Inmates At Harris County Jail

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office has opened a new section of the county jail dedicated to military veterans, with the aim of helping them prepare for civilian life. 

The cellblock is part of a new veteran-focused program called Brothers in Arms, and is located at the Harris County Jail’s new Joint Processing Center.

Earlier this year, the jail identified over 300 veteran inmates, most of whom were not receiving mental healthcare or participating in veteran-specific programs, according to Heide Laser, the case manager in charge of Brothers in Arms.

In addition to a shared cellblock with inspirational quotes and military-inspired murals on the walls, the men participating in the program have access to education services related to substance abuse, life-skills and mental illness. The program also works with the Veterans Service Office. 

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez spoke to inmates at the kick-off of the program and encouraged them to take advantage of the services offered to them.

U.S. Representative Pete Olson (R-TX) at an event with The Greater Houston Pachyderm Club.

Congressman Pete Olson Won’t Run For Re-Election In 2020

Republican Congressman Pete Olson announced on Thursday he will not run for re-election next year.

Olson was first elected in 2008 to represent Texas’ 22nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes parts of Brazoria, Fort Bend and Harris counties. He is currently serving his sixth term.

Olson graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1988, according to his biography, and served as an officer and pilot in the United States Navy in the 1990s.

Currently, Olson is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He also serves on the Energy and Communications and Technology subcommittees.

Olson said in a news release he will not seek a seventh term because he wants to “be a more consistent presence to help our family.

Derion Vence.

New Development In Maleah Davis Case

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced on Thursday that a grand jury has indicted Derion Vence for tampering with the body of Maleah Davis, the 4-year-old girl who was reported missing in May and was later found dead in Arkansas. On May 11, prosecutors charged Vence with the same offense.

Vence, 27, is the former fiance of Davis’ mother. When he reported the girl’s disappearance he told investigators he was assaulted on the road on May 3, accusing the assailants of stealing his car and abducting Davis. Investigators later debunked that version of events after Vence’s car was found and a police canine detected the smell of human remains in the vehicle. They also found evidence of blood in the family’s apartment.

On June 3, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences positively identified remains found on May 31 in Fulton, Arkansas, as those of Davis. On June 28, the medical examiner ruled the girl’s death a homicide.

The DA’s office said a final autopsy by the medical examiner’s office will be considered as part of any decision regarding possible additional charges.

Second Ward Houston
The Telez family’s home on Edgewood St. is currently under repair as part of Rebuilding Together Houston’s Second Ward project.

Campaign To Repair 100 Homes In Houston’s Second Ward

Low-income homeowners in Houston’s Second Ward will soon get some help with repairs. A public-private partnership has kicked off a fundraising campaign to rebuild one of Houston’s oldest neighborhoods.

Rebuilding Together Houston aims to raise $2.5 million to repair up to 100 homes in the Second Ward over the next three to five years. The effort is part of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Complete Communities Initiative.

“What I would say, if you’re in a situation at home and you can’t afford the repairs, I would say call. I would not say to you to eliminate yourself,” he said. “Contact them, because they really want to help, especially if you’re senior citizens, veterans and people with disabilities.”

More than a dozen companies are involved in the effort. In addition to financial donations, the campaign is seeking volunteer labor and donations of building materials.

Wind created more energy in Texas than coal during the first half of 2019.

Wind Beats Coal In Texas So Far This Year

For the first time ever, wind has surpassed coal as an energy source in Texas.

Data released this month by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas shows wind created 22% of the electricity used in the first half of the year, edging out coal by 1%.

Texas is the largest consumer of coal in the country, according to the Energy Information Administration. But cheap natural gas and renewable energy prices are biting into coal’s market share.

Another reason for wind’s competitiveness this year could be the weather. Many of the coal plants in Texas are “peaker plants,” meaning they operate only when electricity demand is high. A mild spring and summer may have kept demand lower than expected and some of those plants offline. 

Natural gas still continues to produce more electricity than any other source, at 38%.

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