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10 Reasons Why TEA Recommends A Takeover Of HISD, Census Starts Canvassing Some Houston Neighborhoods, Bill King Announces 7-Point Flood Mitigation Plan, And More

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

HISD’s Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center.

10 Reasons Why TEA Recommends A Takeover Of HISD

Secret meetings, misleading investigators and pressuring vendors are just some of the violations flagged in the Texas Education Agency’s initial investigation into the Houston school board.

In the 34-page report sent to the board, the head of the agency’s special investigations unit, Jason Hewitt, detailed those and other reasons why he believes the Texas Education Commission should replace all nine elected board members and install outside managers. 

One of the findings is that, based on emails, interviews and text messages, five school board members — Sergio Lira, Anne Sung, Elizabeth Santos, Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca and board president Diana Dávila all “secretly met” with former HISD superintendent Dr. Abelardo Saavedra at a local restaurant, in a meeting that was not publicly posted, as required by state law.

The report also indicates that Dávila, Flynn Vilaseca and Lira didn’t fully cooperate with the investigation, and details multiple examples of what investigators determined was board members exceeding their authority. Click here to read the full story by News 88.7 Education Reporter Laura Isensee.

Photo of downtown Houston skyline
Houston’s skyline from the air.

Census Starts Canvassing Some Houston Neighborhoods

The U.S. Census Bureau is starting a major field operation for the 2020 population count Monday. The agency is sending people door-to-door to verify addresses, including in Houston.

The canvassing is in addition to the Census Bureau’s new use of satellite technology to identify new housing developments throughout the United States.

The Census Bureau’s geography division chief, Diedre Dalpiaz Bishop, said they are also using information from the U.S. Postal Service and from local, state and tribal governments.

Canvassing will go on until October. Once all addresses are validated, the Census Bureau will mail out invitations asking people to respond to the Census.

Bill King
Former Kemah mayor and Houston mayoral candidate Bill King.

Mayoral Candidate Bill King Announces 7-Point Flood Mitigation Plan

Houston mayoral candidate Bill King has unveiled a seven-point plan to reduce future flooding in Houston. He said the most important step he’d take for flooding as mayor would be to stop the diversion of city drainage fees into other uses, and spend the funds exclusively on drainage projects.

“The drainage fee is not held in a segregated account, which, by the way, state law says it’s supposed to be,” said King at a news conference held Monday.

A spokesperson for Mayor Sylvester Turner’s reelection campaign said that King’s plan would halt the city’s ability to pay down debts on drainage projects as they’re incurred.

King also pledged to buy up more vacant land for green space and fast-track flood control projects in the most flood-prone areas.

Harris County’s Limitations To Counter Gun Violence

Harris County leaders are looking at options to toughen gun control in the wake of El Paso’s mass shooting. But Judge Lina Hidalgo acknowledges state law sharply limits the county’s ability to pass gun control measures.  

Dave Fagundes, research dean of the University of Houston Law Center, says the state has effectively preempted all cities and counties from passing gun control measures tougher than those passed by the State Legislature.

Mark Jones, professor of political science at Rice University, says that any new county gun control ordinance would likely be overturned by the next state legislature, if not by the courts.

Hidalgo says the county will take a fresh look at whether to allow gun shows on its property.

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