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InstantNewsWestU.com Constantly Updated Neighborhood News for West University, TX 2018-06-13T01:20:35Z http://www.instantnewswestu.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Charlotte Aguilar <![CDATA[Council OKs consultants to search for new West U city manager]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52196 2018-06-13T01:20:35Z 2018-06-12T23:05:36Z In a meeting perhaps more notable for what didn’t occur than what did, West University Place City Council voted unanimously Monday to engage the consulting firm Strategic Government Resources to recruit a replacement for City Manager Chris Peifer, who is expected to retire in January 2019.

Peifer

SGR, based in Keller, Texas, was one of five firms to place a timely bid on the contract, and one of two firms recommended by city staff. According to its website, most of SGR’s principles are former government officials, which it claims brings the firm “perspective and depth” to its clients.
The brief meeting was originally meant to be a much more involved one, slated to have been a combined public hearing with the city’s Zoning and Planning Commission on the ongoing, controversial dispute over AT&T’s operations on Bellaire Boulevard.
That joint hearing had been scheduled for Monday, but late last week, AT&T withdrew its application for the hearing, according to City Attorney Alan Petrov. Although there was some confusion in the audience Monday, Petrov explained the civil lawsuit is still pending, and the city’s website noted that AT&T has not withdrawn its application altogether.
Assistant City Manager Dave Beach said that although an AT&T item is still on Thursday night’s Zoning & Planning Commission meeting, it will be limited to an update: “There will be no new discussion or action taken by the ZPC until after the joint public hearing with the City Council happens.”

At issue are several lots behind the AT&T building which were are zoned residential but which the city granted special exemptions in the 1970s to serve as parking spaces when the facility (operated at that time by the former Southwestern Bell) served mostly as an office complex.

In the decades since, AT&T has changed its operations at the complex to include servicing customers throughout the Houston area. Now AT&T wants to be able to stock its service vans in the parking area, causing increasing consternation among some residents who live on Ruskin Street behind the parking lot.

At a hearing in June 2016, the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) reversed an interpretation by West U’s administrative official which had allowed AT&T to load and unload in the parking lot after hearing complaints from nearby residents over safety concerns and the potential decline of property values.

AT&T then appealed the decision to Harris County district court. Earlier this year, the city and the company reached a tentative settlement, pending a resolution of the matter by the ZPC.

At its May 21 meeting, the Council voted 3-1 to go forward with AT&T’s request for a joint public hearing with the ZPC, but only after hearing from numerous residents urging the council to let the matter drop.

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Charlotte Aguilar <![CDATA[Curb emissions, monitor air quality: We’re in an ‘ozone action day’]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52191 2018-06-03T03:25:07Z 2018-06-03T03:24:16Z The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) said Saturday afternoon that conditions are present for high levels of harmful ozone pollution and declared Sunday an “ozone action day” throughout the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria areas, including West University.

Those with respiratory conditions or increased sensitivity to pollution are not in danger but should monitor ozone levels for changes through local weather forecasters or the Houston-Galveston bureau of the National Weather Service, here.

TCEQ makes these suggestions to keep levels down: “You can help prevent ozone pollution by sharing a ride, walking, riding a bicycle, taking your lunch to work, avoiding drive-through lanes, conserving energy and keeping your vehicle properly tuned.”

For more about ozone pollution, visit www.tceq.texas.gov/air quality/monops/ozonefacts.html.

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Charlotte Aguilar <![CDATA[Lizzie beats West U’s Moser for Democratic nod to face Culberson for Congress]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52166 2018-05-23T16:33:42Z 2018-05-23T05:00:27Z By Charlotte Aguilar

In a runoff that drew national attention but a meager 4 percent turnout, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher soundly defeated West U resident Laura Moser Tuesday to win the Democratic nomination to challenge nine-term incumbent John Culberson for the District 7 seat in Congress.

Fletcher, a 43-year-old attorney who lives in River Oaks, led out of the gate, with a 69-31 percent edge in absentee and early voting, revealed shortly after the polls closed at 7 p.m. She held that lead straight into the finish with 11,423-5,605 votes, a 67-33 percent tally.

She greeted supporters in Moser’s backyard, so to speak — at a joyful but restrained  party at the Buffalo Grille. Moser, who had hoped to be celebrating at a gathering at a Montrose cafe, said she would have no comment Tuesday night, according to media on site. UPDATE: Moser posted a message on her Twitter and Facebook accounts late at night:  “I want to congratulate Lizzie Fletcher for running a great race and encourage everyone to unite behind our nominee. Looking forward to doing everything I can to flip this district! Big huge thank yous to all the incredible people who gave their all to this campaign. More on this when I’ve had some sleep. For now – all love and gratitude.”

The candidates, both alumna of St. John’s School, had made several joint appearances and largely avoided confrontation, instead focusing on Culberson’s 17-year record representing District 7, which includes Bellaire and West University west to the Memorial area and out to Cy Fair.

“I’ve been on the campaign trail now a year with my campaign team, and I feel great about where we wound up in March,” Fletcher told ABC-13, “and I think it’s a great indication for November.”

The race has been pegged as one to watch by national analysts looking for GOP vulnerabilities. Hillary Clinton carried the district against Donald Trump in 2016, and Culberson has been a dedicated supporter of the president on Capitol Hill. He has come under fire during the Democrats’ campaigning for what they claimed was indifference toward flooding in Houston, which has worsened since 2001 when Tropical Storm Allison hit.

Lizzie Fletcher greets supporters at the Buffalo Grille Tuesday night after her victory became apparent. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

 

 

 

 

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Ken Fountain <![CDATA[Fireworks at City Council over AT&T zoning request]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52162 2018-05-22T22:29:56Z 2018-05-22T16:41:48Z After hearing from many residents who live near the AT&T facility on Bellaire Boulevard who vociferously oppose a proposed zoning change on the property, the West University Place City Council voted nonetheless Monday to go forward with a joint public hearing with the Zoning and Planning Commission on June 11.

The vote was 3-1, with Councilman Bob Higley the lone dissenter. Higley had earlier asked City Attorney Alan Petrov (whom he repeatedly called “my attorney”) whether Council, having heard the complaints from residents, needed any more information to deny the process from going forward.

Petrov responded (and, apparently, elaborated further on the point during an ad hoc executive session Higley demanded) that none of the comments heard thus far count legally as “evidence” in the dispute, which is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit between AT&T and the city.

Councilmember Bob Higley

At issue are several lots behind the AT&T building which were are zoned residential, but which the city granted special exemptions in the 1970s to serve as parking spaces when the facility (originally operated by the former Southwestern Bell) operated mostly as an office complex.

In the decades since, AT&T has changed its operations at the complex to include servicing customers throughout the Houston area. Now AT&T wants to be able to stock its service vans in the parking area, causing increasing consternation among the residents who live on Ruskin Street behind the parking lot.

Many of those residents spoke up during the public comment part of Monday’s meeting, laying out their concerns, which largely have to do with the potential for increased truck traffic in and out of the facility and its negative impact on the area’s (and the city’s) residential character and on property values.

Robert Grossman, who has served as a sort of unofficial leader of the residents in their opposition to the proposed changes, said that if the city went ahead with them, it would be a “precedent-setting” move that would allow for even more industrialization of the city’s residential areas.

He was among a few who raised the specter that the changes might be exploited by the neighboring Whole Foods store in the future. Since the dispute originally began, Whole Foods was purchased by Amazon, which has announced plans to move into the food delivery business.

Lillian Irani, a mother of two, implored the Council members to consider the safety of children who live behind the facility.

Ray Viada, an attorney who is representing some of the residents, echoed the point that the proposed changes could have far-reaching unintended consequences for West University, including making it vulnerable to even more litigation in the future.

Amar Patel, another resident, noted that there are about two dozen homes in the affected area, which he said have a total taxable value of $26 million. The AT&T property, he said, has only about $6 million in value the bulk of which is in the land value.

“This is not a good pursuit in the area of fiscal responsibility,” he said.

Only two people spoke on behalf of going forward with the June 1 joint public hearing — Anthony Marre, an attorney representing AT&T, and Lindsay Munoz, external affairs director for the company.

Richard Wilson, chair of the ZPC, told Council that the purpose of the hearing was to hear from people representing all sides of the dispute in a forum where all the testimony would serve as official evidence. Much of the final decision will hinge on the interpretation of the language in the agreement made between the city and Southwestern Bell in the 1970s, he said.

After the Council voted to go forward with the June 1 joint hearing, nearly all the people in the audience filed outside of the chamber to talk outside In the other major piece of business, the Council voted unanimously to appoint the members of the Charter Review Commission, which is mandated this year.

The appointed members are Dick Yehle, Steven Segal, Kenneth Mercado, David Furlow, Betsy Kamin, Kathleen Brem, and Spryos Marago. The two alternates are Eddie Matthews and Candida Alvarado.

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George Boehme http://InstantNewsWestU.com <![CDATA[West U is alive for Memorial weekend]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52157 2018-05-21T22:31:31Z 2018-05-21T22:31:31Z West U Parks facilities – Memorial weekend hours

Colonial Park Pool

Saturday, May 26: 10:00am – 8:00pm

Sunday, May 27: 12:00pm – 8:00pm

Monday, May 28: 10:00am – 7:00pm

West University Recreation Center

Saturday, May 26: 7:00am – 7:00pm

Sunday, May 27: 8:00am – 7:00pm

Monday, May 28: 5:00am – 9:00pm

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George Boehme http://InstantNewsWestU.com <![CDATA[Tonight: City Council talks AT&T zoning and possible city charter changes]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52153 2018-05-21T20:47:27Z 2018-05-21T20:41:24Z There is a West University Place City Council meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building Council Chambers located at 3800 University Blvd.

ATT van loading

The hot-button tonight will likely be the ongoing saga with AT&T and a cluster of neighboring property owners over AT&T’s ability to use its parking lot to load its vans for service dispatch. The lot is located at the corner of Academy and Ruskin St.

Current zoning permits the parking lot but does not allow the loading of modems and other supplies in the service vans. Approval of this request would allow AT&T to ask another citizen board, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, for permission to load the vans in the parking lot.

The parking lot is a brick-fenced fortress-like compound with no line-of-sight into the parking lot. The West University Place Zoning and Planning Commission recommended approval of this zoning change on a 3-2 vote.

Tonight the City Council will decide if they want to call a public hearing to further consider this proposed zoning change.  

Charter Review Committee

The West University Place City Charter requires the appointment of a Charter Review Committee every six years, whether it is needed or not. And the six years is up…

So tonight the City Council will appoint a Charter Review Committee.

The committee’s purpose is to decide if the City Charter needs to be changed. Any recommendations are then forwarded to the City Council who decides whether the recommendations are ballot-worthy.

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George Boehme http://InstantNewsWestU.com <![CDATA[No trash, recycle or yard waste collection on Memorial Day]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52149 2018-05-21T15:21:31Z 2018-05-21T15:21:31Z There will be no trash, recycle and yard waste collection on Monday, May 28.  

Recycling and yard waste normally scheduled for Monday will be collected on Wednesday, May 30. 

Please hold your trash until your next regularly scheduled day (Thursday May 31). There will be no changes to Tuesday, Thursday or Friday collection. 

City offices will be closed on Monday, May 28.

For more information, please visit www.westutx.gov/holiday or call the Public Works Dept at (713)662-5839 or email pwinfo@westutx.gov

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Charlotte Aguilar <![CDATA[Weslayan Plaza announcement: Goodbye Chuck E., hello Torchy’s]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52144 2018-05-21T15:04:17Z 2018-05-21T15:04:17Z By Charlotte Aguilar

Weslayan Plaza is going to lose a longtime family favorite, Chuck E. Cheese, but gain an outlet of the growing Torchy’s Taco chain, Instant News learned Monday.

A spokeswoman for Regency Centers said Torchy’s is poised to open in the east section of the plaza in summer of 2019. There was no immediate word about whether Chuck E. Cheese will relocate in the West U-Bellaire-southwest Houston area, but InstantNews has contacted the chain’s corporate media relations department for a comment.

Torchy’s began in Austin. Its menu of non-traditional taco combinations and sides for breakfast, lunch and dinner has expanded successfully into 11 Texas cities, with 14 locations in the Houston area alone, including one in Rice Village. The chain also has multiple locations in Oklahoma and Colorado.

The new Torchy’s will be just a few doors down from the 30-year-old Weslayan Plaza family mainstay, Skeeter’s, which features tacos and other Tex-Mex and southwestern specialties but offers a broader menu.

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Charlotte Aguilar <![CDATA[Lost and found: ex-Mayor Burt Ballanfant enroute back to West U]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52128 2018-05-11T22:38:48Z 2018-05-11T22:38:48Z

Ballanfant

What had been a family’s private struggle became frighteningly public today (Friday, May 11), when former West U Mayor Burt Ballanfant — suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease — was missing for several hours, prompting a statewide Silver Alert to find him.

In the late afternoon, his son told Miya Shay of ABC-13 that the 70-year-old community leader had been located near an old family property around Junction, Texas, northwest of Fredericksburg. Family members were reportedly enroute to bring him home.

Ballanfant was last seen around 8 a.m. this morning when he apparently walked from his home in West U to an agency on the Southwest Freeway and rented a car. West U police issued a missing person’s alert. The Silver Alert, which broadcast of the vehicle’s description through the news media and highway digital billboards throughout Texas, led authorities to him, according to the news report.

A former assistant U.S. attorney and longtime attorney for Shell Oil Co., Ballanfant served two terms as West U mayor, and his career on council spanned 15 years. He has also been active in Houston ISD parent activities, and served on the Metro Board.

 

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Ken Fountain <![CDATA[Burke reappears at West U council to apologize for confronting teen; no longer facing charge]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52124 2018-04-24T11:59:57Z 2018-04-24T04:52:22Z Embattled West University Place City Councilwoman Kellye Burke, facing calls for her resignation and an ongoing recall drive — but no longer, reportedly, a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge — strove to make amends Monday in her first public appearance since a March 31 incident in which she profanely confronted a young female supporter of President Trump and other teens at an area cookie store.

Burke, 50, had been largely absent from the public eye — and from the previous City Council meeting — since a public furor over the incident spilled into social media circles and the political echo chambers, drawing almost unheard of national and even international attention to the small city of West University Place.

While a petition drive to force a recall election — the only remedy Burke’s opponents had under the West University charter — has been heating up, with a reported 700 signatures gathered toward 1,600-plus needed to force the removal election.

Burke, elected to council last year, sought to remedy that by placing an item on Monday’s agenda simply titled “Statement from Councilmember Kellye Burke.”

The council chamber, as at the last meeting, was at near full capacity and abuzz with anticipation. But before Burke could begin making her statement, Councilman Bob Higley interjected, asking City Attorney Alan Petrov to rule on the agenda item’s legitimacy under the Texas Open Meetings Act and its relevance, because  Higley said the council has no legal authority to remove Burke or censure her.

Petrov said, though, he “respectfully” disagreed with Higley’s assessment. Given the high public interest in Burke’s situation, he said, it was entirely proper for the council members — and the citizenry — to hear her statement.

With that, Burke, who displayed composure throughout the meeting, began to speak.

“Earlier this month while standing in line at a local restaurant, I made inappropriate remarks to a group of teenage girls standing near me. There is no excuse for my conduct,” she began.

“I sincerely apologize to the young women and their families. I further apologize to the people of West U. You are my friends and constituents, but most importantly, you are my neighbors,” she continued.

“I’m sorry for my actions and for the hurt and pain I caused. I am honored to be your council member and pledge with all my heart to regain your trust and respect,” she concluded.

Her statement received a smattering of applause from the audience. Mayor Susan Sample said, “I appreciate your statement. I think a lot of people have waited for that.”

Later, during the public comments part of the meeting, several people came to the podium to speak both on Burke’s behalf as well as to continue the call for her to resign.

Michael Lockler said that Burke’s reported comments to the girls (apparently referring to an “Access Hollywood” recording of Donald Trump making profane comments about women that were made public shortly before the 2016 election) showed “more interest in her personal agenda than acting on behalf of the city.”

He said Burke’s comments did not reflect well on the city and had brought unwanted negative publicity to West University.

“Her actions were offensive and antithetical to a good citizen of our community, much less on of our leaders,” he said, calling for her to resign.

Jay Cohen, an attorney who is one of the organizers of the recall petition, thanked Burke for her apology but wondered if it had been “forced” by all of the publicity.

“If you hide behind freedom of speech, then you’re disregarding common decency, and that’s what this is about,” Cohen said. “We teach our children bullying is wrong, and we can’t have someone in office who’s doing that.”

Cohen asked the council members to voice their own thoughts about Burke’s statements, but Petrov, the city attorney, interjected, saying it was not appropriate under the Texas Open Meetings Act for members to make statements during the public comments part of the meeting.

Lori Britton, said she was “torn” by Burke’s statement.

“I accept your apology and I certainly do forgive you. However, it feels too late,” Britton said. She said Burke had forgone previous opportunities to apologize sincerely.

“We’ve got an elected official of our community who outwardly and aggressively detests a portion of our community. That’s not OK,” she said. “I voted for you. I’d like to rescind my vote. This is where adult accountability, empathy, and humility should kick in. When you can’t represent us all, you represent no one.”

There were several others who spoke in support of Burke, even if they did not necessarily defend her actions, including two former council members, Steven Segal and Stan McCandless, and McCandless’ wife, Sally.

Segal said that many members of the public were unaware that Burke had tried to apologize personally to all the girls and their families shortly after the incident before the wave of negative publicity forced her to remain silent.

Sally McCandless, a decades-long educator said the incident was “a teaching moment, a learning moment, both for adults and our children.”

“Did Kellye Burke make a terrible mistake? Yes, she did. Has she recognized that? Yes, she did. And I would think that adults in the room, in the community, whether it’s through your church or Christian values or whatever, there would be this feeling of forgiveness,” she said, adding that the “extreme” recall effort was “ridiculous.”

Claire Furse, a 17-year-old student at St. John’s School, said “I’m here to say that I think Mrs. Burke is a good person. She’s kind and funny, and she’s always willing to volunteer to help our city,” noting that Burke, a longtime advocate of gun control legislation, spoke to her school on the issue at her request.

“We’ve all made mistakes in our lives. I know I have,” Furse said. “But I think forgiveness is important. Mrs. Burke made a mistake, and she’s apologized. I know she’s very sorry, and I hope you’ll accept her apology.”

Burke intently listened to all of the speakers but made no other statement. Earlier, Channel 2 news reported that Burke’s attorney David Adler had appeared in court on Burke’s behalf and that the misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge against her, filed by the Precinct 1 Harris County Constable’s Office, had been dropped.

The Burke situation was not the only subject on the public’s mind. Several people asked the council to allow the city attorney to defend in court a recent decision by the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment about the AT&T facility that abuts several residential properties, and not settle with AT&T.

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George Boehme http://InstantNewsWestU.com <![CDATA[Heading toward the goal: Burke recall drive takes to the streets, social media]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52118 2018-04-18T21:50:16Z 2018-04-18T20:50:52Z They claim to have more than a third of their goal achieved in one weekend. And organizers of the campaign to recall West University City Councilmember Kellye Burke have scheduled another round of circulating petitions and have set up a Facebook page to help in their effort.

“We will not stop collecting signatures until we reach our goal,” said Jay Cohen, spokesman for the group — and City Secretary Thelma Gilliam said they have until July 20 to submit petitions to put the matter on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Cohen said more than 600 residents have signed, toward a requirement of 1,600-plus signatures — 15 percent of qualified West U voters.

The recall campaign is in response to Burke’s behavior during and after an incident on March 31 where the 50-year-old councilmember verbally used offensive language to a teenage girl wearing a Trump Make America Great Again T-shirt while the girl bought cookies with friends in a business on Edloe Street. Burke was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct for her behavior, which reportedly included yelling, “Grab her by the p&$$y, girls!” a reference to a quote attributed to Trump.

As the story spread to national and international news and social media, Burke issued three apologies through attorneys, the last one at the April 9 council meeting, which she missed, claiming to have “fled” the city with her family because of safety concerns.

In event of a successful November recall (at a West U taxpayer cost of about $10K), the seat would remain vacant until the next regular West U municipal election on May 4, 2019 — meaning the city would function with a mayor and three councilmembers for six months.

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George Boehme http://InstantNewsWestU.com <![CDATA[West U petition drive to recall Councilwoman Burke enters second day]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52094 2018-04-15T12:56:33Z 2018-04-15T12:56:33Z After what they termed “a very successful first day,” a group of West University residents will be outside the Municipal Building again today (Sunday, April 15) seeking

A group of West U residents launched a petition drive Saturday to recall Councilwoman Kellye Burke over an incident when she confronted a teen girl wearing a Trump T-shirt, drawing a disorderly conduct charge. (Photo by Carlos Aguilar)

signatures to recall Councilwoman Kellye Burke.

To qualify, signers must be registered voters and live within West U city limits. Hours for the drive, at 3801 University Blvd., will be from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

“Residents supporting the recall petition feel Councilwoman Burke has lost her right to lead,” said Jay Cohen, one of the organizers of the drive. “The community had a positive reaction to the petition.”

To trigger a recall election, organizers must collect signatures of 15 percent of West U’s qualified voters — 1,656 of 11,040, according to the city secretary. “The goal is to collect around 1,700

signatures,” Cohen said. “We will continue until we achieve that number.”

Burke, 50, was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct for a March 31 incident in which she verbally attacked a middle school-age girl who was wearing a “Trump Make America Great Again” T-shirt and a group of her friends buying cookies at Tiny’s Milk & Cookies on Edloe Street. A parent of the targeted teen said Burke used language associated with Trump, including “grab her by the p&$$y!”\

The councilwoman issued three apologies through attorneys, the third one last Monday night at the first council meeting since the incident. She missed the meeting claiming she had “fled” West U because of concerns for her family’s safety after the story of the incident was reported widely by Houston, national and international news outlets and social media.

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George Boehme http://InstantNewsWestU.com <![CDATA[West University Republicans: More Lincoln than Trump-Abbott]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52089 2018-04-10T18:07:12Z 2018-04-10T18:07:12Z In an explosive and divisive era when Donald Trump leads the national party and Greg Abbott the Texas branch, West University Republicans stubbornly defy that new norm.

They are highly educated, measured and conciliatory. They are fiscally conservative but loathe to have too much government involvement in personal matters. They supported Mitt Romney over Barack Obama 64-34 percent in 2012 — but voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump 49.5-42 percent in 2016.

Take the matter of abortion. Proposition 7 — among 11 gut-check issues placed on the party primary ballot last month by the Texas Republican Executive Committee — posed this statement for a yes/no response: “I believe abortion should be abolished in Texas.”

Statewide, it received a resounding “yes” from 67 percent of Republicans, with a third saying “no.” The results weren’t much different in Harris County — 63 percent “yes,” 37 percent “no.” In West U, though, the responses flipped: Only 36 percent took the so-called right-to-life stance, with 64 percent saying “no.”

Sarah Davis has become the prototype West University Republican, and her victory in the GOP primary in a quest for a fifth term as a state representative was as much a win over Abbott as her contender, Susanna Dokupil.

Confronted with anti-vaccine, climate change-disbelieving rhetoric, Davis staunchly defended representing her district, which includes the scientific genius of the Texas Medical Center and Rice University, and which has been battered almost annually by devastating, “once-in-a-lifetime” storms.  

Questioning her conservative credentials because of her stands, the governor had hand-picked and help fund Davis’ opponent and vigorously campaigned against Davis. The race, Abbott proclaimed, epitomized a “fight for the very future of both the Republican Party and the state of Texas.”

He lost that fight, bigly. Davis trounced Dokupil 56-44 percent throughout District 134, and 62-38 percent among West U voters.

“I represent so many Republicans that are just like me and feel that I give them a voice and a home in the party, and without someone like me, they are starting to wonder: What does it even mean to be a Republican?” Davis told the Texas Tribune when the race became big news state-wide. “We have to be a big-tent party.” 

Her fellow West U Republican, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, called the Davis vs. Abbott showdown “perhaps the most important race in the state of Texas because it will answer that question of, ‘Who is the Republican Party?’”

A former state legislator himself from 1979-87, Emmett became Harris County judge in 2007 and is arguably the most popular elected official in Harris County, respected by Republicans and Democrats alike.

“Does the Republican Party have to toe the line of statewide elected officials, or is the Republican Party able to represent its constituents?” Emmett wondered to the Texas Tribune, concluding, “…In this case, Sarah Davis has done that very well.”

As has Emmett, who as chief operating officer of the third most populous county in the U.S., deftly steers clear of partisan hyperbole and focuses instead on accomplishments and government efficiency — on “hunkering down” instead of lashing out.

West University Place Mayor Susan Sample is a Republican in a nonpartisan position, which suits her fine. “As mayor, I am not elected to be a partisan but to get things done,” she explains. “Our city councilmembers have a wide range of political pedigrees, but we all work together to accomplish our common goals for West U. We were elected to get things done, not fight.”

She says Republicans here represent the kinder, gentler version of the party: “West University Republicans are center-right, but not far right. We want fiscal conservatism but also believe in social tolerance. Democrats are not always wrong, and Republicans are not always right. We support ideas, not personalities.”

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Ken Fountain <![CDATA[West U council drama: Absent Burke says she has fled after threats — but won’t resign]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52080 2018-04-10T14:51:35Z 2018-04-10T04:05:06Z By Ken Fountain

West University Place City Council meetings aren’t generally known for attracting spillover crowds and television cameras, but both were on display Monday evening. The main draw, however, was a no-show.

Councilwoman Kellye Burke, who set off a firestorm of criticism and caused a highly unusual national (even international) spotlight to beam on the small enclave during a March 31 incident in which she confronted a young female supporter of President Trump and other teens at an area cookie store, was not present when councilmembers took their seats behind the shoehorn.

Burke, 50, first elected to council last year, has been charged with disorderly conduct, a Class C misdemeanor, for allegedly launching a verbal attack on the four girls buying cookies at Tiny’s Milk & Cookies, apparently triggered by one of the girls wearing a Trump T-shirt.

She reportedly yelled, “grab her by the p#$$y, girls!” (referring to an audio recording of Trump, made by the TV show Access Hollywood in 2005 and which became public shortly before the 2016 election) and “MAGA, MAGA!” (Make America Great Again, Trump’s campaign slogan).

When the family of one of the girls posted about the event on social media, the news went viral and rebounded through the political echo chambers. News outlets around the country and even abroad have reported on the furor.

After the council returned from an already-planned executive session (dealing with the installation of a “virtual gate” security camera system around the city), Mayor Susan Sample said in her “Mayor’s Statement” that although Burke’s reported comments were not condoned by either herself, the other council members or the city, there was no provision under the city’s charter that would allow the council to remove or otherwise sanction a sitting council member.

“We’re all independently elected,” Sample noted. (After the meeting, she told a reporter that the only way to remove Burke would be through a recall vote, which would require a petition under state law.)

Sample said she has repeatedly reached out to Burke asking about her intentions but received no reply. She later told a reporter that she was giving Burke “space” to come to her own decision about her political future.

During the public comments session of Monday’s meeting, Christopher Downey, a Houston attorney representing Burke (she had initially retained the very high-profile attorney Rusty Hardin) read a prepared statement from her. In it, she explained that she had been advised not to attend the meeting (she didn’t specify by whom) because of security concerns over the charged atmosphere. (Later, West U City Manager Chris Peifer told Instant News that the recommendation had not come from the police department.)

Burke said through an attorney she would not resign. (File photo)

Downey said the response included vociferously negative emails and social media comments —  and even death threats that had forced her to “flee” her home.

In the statement read by Downey, Burke said she immediately regretted her words during the incident and tried reaching out to the families of all of the girls involved, and that one family had responded and accepted her apology. Burke said she has continued to reach out to all of the parties to apologize, to no avail.

“I’ve made every effort to sincerely apologize in person. I was born and raised in Goliad,Texas, the daughter of two loving parents who expected to work hard, be joyful in hard times and do right by God,” Burke said in the statement. “I’ve done my best to live up to that standard of grace, but sometimes I make mistakes. And when that happens, as my parents would say, I take my lumps by acknowledging that hurt and doing my best to make amends.”

Burke said she believes her remarks were in bad taste but that when weighed against her community service both before and during her time on council, she has no plans to resign. A 12-year West University resident and business consultant, she is well-known for her gun control advocacy with Moms Demand Action, on whose behalf she has lobbied at the Texas Legislature.

Besides Downey, several speakers spoke on behalf of and against Burke.

Ranae Scheibner, a longtime friend of Burke’s, said, “She’s a hardworking, highly educated, energetic woman who won her seat on City Council because she’s good for West U. Neighbors, she is one of us.

“She’s not a person who would attack or assault anyone. She made a mistake. She does not deserve the harsh treatment that people are handing out.”

Scheinber said the stories of the incident had been one-sided and exacerbated by social media. “It’s tearing our community apart.”

Many of the comments, including calls for Burke to resign, she said, had originated outside of West University. “West U residents need to decide what happens in West U,” she said. “Kellye Burke may have made a mistake, but she is still a city councilwoman we can be proud of.”

Anne Furse, another friend of Burke’s, lauded her for her volunteer work and advocacy and her work on council on flood control and other issues.

“Kellye made a mistake, but she is a warm and energetic great mom to two kids, a smart and enthusiastic community volunteer. She does not deserve this,” she said.

Therese Tusa, a retired West University Elementary School teacher and Houston resident wearing a blue “Trump: Make America Great Again” shirt, said she participated in a rally for Trump in 2016 where she was “verbally and physically” accosted by a young man who asked her why she, a woman, would support Trump.

“The experience was extremely frightening and traumatizing,” she said. She said the incident involving Burke and the young girls reminded her of that incident.

“I’m an adult and I can take care of myself,” Tusa said,

“But I cannot imagine the fear experienced by these young girls buying cookies at the cookie shop being verbally assaulted by an adult, not knowing to what extent the woman’s anger might reach.”

Tusa ended her remarks by calling on Burke to resign.

Courtney Bucy, who said she voted for Burke, said she was “beyond disappointed” when she read the news about the councilwoman’s comments, including her public statements of apology.

“At the end of the day, we elect our officials because we trust your judgement, we think you’re going to be accountable for your actions, and that you’re going to listen to your constituents. She has exhibited beyond reproach any sort of horrible judgment I have seen. I don’t want to see a community that is tolerant of intolerance, and that’s happened that day,” she said.

Bucy reprimanded Burke both for her “non-apology” and for not attending the meeting to hear from her constituents.

“She made a grievous error, and she needs to be held accountable,” she said. “If she doesn’t step down, she is sending the message that it is OK.”

Following the public comments portion, the meeting shifted to more prosaic matters involving providing guidance to the planning and zoning commission on the development of townhomes and “fence-like hedges” and preparations for a new City Charter Committee, which is mandated this year.

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George Boehme http://InstantNewsWestU.com <![CDATA[TONIGHT: West U City Council meeting]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52075 2018-04-09T18:33:16Z 2018-04-09T18:29:50Z Tonight, Monday, April 9, beginning at 6:15 p.m., there will be a meeting of the West University Place City Council. It will be held in the Municipal Building Council Chambers located at 3800 University Blvd.

Virtual gated city

The first order of business will be a closed briefing discussing West U’s planned city-circling surveillance camera system.

Why the secrecy?

Because West U Police Chief Ken Walker and  IT guru Gary McFarland will be discussing the plan’s effect on city-wide security. A closed briefing for security issues is permitted under Section 551.076 of the Texas Government Code.

Public comments

This is an opportunity for citizens to speak. Public comments must be kept relevant to the subject before the City Council. Mayor Susan Sample will rule on the relevance of comments. People making irrelevant, personal, impertinent, or slanderous remarks may be barred by the Mayor from further comment. Speakers are required to register in advance and must limit their presentations to three minutes each.

Tightening the rules for Townhouse Zoning and Fence-Like Hedges

Discussion with Zoning and Planning Commission Matters related to providing direction to the Zoning and Planning Commission on townhouse zoning and fence-like hedges. Recommended Action: Discuss and take any desired action. Mayor Susan Sample

City Charter Review Committee

The City Charter requires the City Council appoint a Charter Review Committee of seven residents every six years.

Thier purpose is to propose changes to the City Charter that would be ballot items in November.

The City Charter requires these appointments to be made by the first meeting in June. So this agenda item gives the City Council the ability to discuss the appointments.

If you have more questions,  please contact City Secretary Thelma Gilliam at 713.662.5813

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George Boehme http://InstantNewsWestU.com <![CDATA[West University councilwoman claims she ‘misjudged’ teens’ ages in disorderly conduct case as recall talk grows]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52072 2018-04-06T19:18:51Z 2018-04-06T19:18:51Z Embattled West University City Councilwoman Kellye Burke is standing firm Friday that she “did not commit any type of crime” in an incident involving her confronting a young female supporter of President Trump and other teens whose age she now says she “misjudged.” Meantime, the story has gone viral in headlines around the world — from Fox News to the New York Daily News to the London-based Daily Mail, while talk of a recall grows in West U.

“As I expressed to the parents who agreed to meet with me, it was not my intent to upset the teens,” Burke said in a statement to Instant News Friday afternoon. “I regret the choice of words I used and that I misjudged their age. I have, and will continue to, apologize to them for that.”

News and partisan websites across the U.S. and the globe are carrying accounts of the incident last Saturday outside Tiny’s Milk & Cookies, 3636 Rice Blvd. Burke, 50, has been charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly launching a verbal attack on the four girls buying cookies, apparently triggered by one of the girls wearing a Trump T-shirt.

Despite the offense being a Class C misdemeanor and her repeated claims that she was not guilty of any crime, Burke has retained high-profile criminal defense attorney Rusty Hardin.

She reportedly yelled, “grab her by the p#$$y, girls!” (referring to an audio recording of Trump, made by the TV show Access Hollywood in 2005) and “MAGA, MAGA!” (Make America Great Again, Trump’s campaign slogan).

Parents told authorities and Channel 2 News that the girls felt threatened by Burke’s behavior. If convicted, she could draw a $500 fine.

Politically, Burke is facing the ire of West U residents — with some exploring options for and demanding a recall — while attracting support from anti-Trump factions, including gun control advocates, based on her visible involvement with the group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

City Manager Chris Peifer told InstantNewsWestU.com  Friday afternoon that four residents had requested information about options to remove Burke from office.

Section 4.07 of the West U city code stipulates that a petition containing the signatures of 15 percent of all qualified voters in West U — currently 1,656 of 11,040 — “demanding the removal of the elected officer” would direct the City Council to hold a recall election. The rest of the code describes that a majority of votes would be enough to recall the officeholder, and would trigger a special election to fill the vacancy.

Burke’s earlier statement, issued Thursday through Hardin, fanned the flames. “…I do not believe repeating the words of the president of the United States is a crime,” it read in part. Saying she had “repeatedly apologized for the bad judgment I used and making the statement I did,” Burke concluded, “…I will apologize again on behalf of myself, the president of the united states (sic) and all the media outlets who repeated his words both electronically and in print.”

A 12-year resident of West U, the business consultant was elected to council in 2017. She drew 1,264 votes, the second-highest total in a field of eight candidates.

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George Boehme http://InstantNewsWestU.com <![CDATA[UPDATED: Statement from Kellye Burke]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52063 2018-04-07T16:17:48Z 2018-04-05T19:45:45Z

STATEMENT FOM KELLYE BURKE:  “I have repeatedly apologized for the bad judgment I used and making the statement I did, but I do not believe repeating the words of the president of the United States is a crime.

However, I will apologize again on behalf of myself, the president of the united states and all the media outlets who repeated his words both electronically and in print.”

UPDATED: Statement from West University Place Mayor Susan Sample. “Thank you for reaching out about the city’s position on one of its councilmember’s actions last Saturday. The reported comments definitely do not speak for the City of West University Place’s government or employees. My position as Mayor, however, does not afford me any official authority with respect to matters such as this. Neither the city council nor the Mayor has any authority to remove fellow councilmembers.

“I am glad to know that this councilmember, who was independently elected by our city voters, is taking responsibility for her own actions and has reached out to the affected families to apologize for her remarks.

“This incident is a reminder that part of our responsibility, as elected officials, is to set a good example of civil discourse for those we represent, particularly our young people. I hope that my Council colleagues and I will move forward in that spirit in doing the work we were elected to do.”

Original story 

West University City Councilmember Kellye Burke has been charged with disorderly conduct for an incident Saturday night when she reportedly launched a verbal attack on a group of teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a “Trump Make America Great Again” T-shirt.

The offense is a Class C misdemeanor which carries a potential $500 fine if she is convicted.

The incident happened outside Milk & Cookies, the outdoor dessert window service at Tiny’s No. 5, 3636 Rice Blvd., where the girls said they were buying cookies to take to youngsters at their church. According to a report on Channel 2 news, based on an interview with the father of one of the girls, Burke, who is 50, shook her fist at them and yelled, “grab her by the p#$$y girls!” and “MAGA, MAGA!”

One of the girls’ mothers took to social media to try to find the woman and later indicated that video of the incident had been located which led to Burke.

While West University Police took the first complaint, the case was transferred to the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office and filed in the Justice of the Peace Court to avoid the appearance of a conflict since City Council hires West U municipal court judges and prosecutors.

Burke was reportedly issued the citation Thursday morning. A 12-year resident of West U, the business consultant and Texas chapter leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was elected to council in 2017.

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Ken Hoffman <![CDATA[Ken Hoffman: Astonishingly stupid]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52053 2018-04-05T19:41:36Z 2018-04-05T18:13:45Z In news from my little town (great song by Simon and Garfunkel): West University Place Councilmember Kellye Burke has been charged with disorderly conduct after shouting at a teenage girl wearing a President Trump “Make America Great Again” T-shirt.

The councilmember noticed the girl – and the T-shirt – at Tiny’s Milk & Cookies walk-up shop in West U’s “downtown.” The girl was in line to buy cookies for her church group.

The councilmember shouted at the girl, quoting a line from President Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.  

 Harris County Precinct One Constable’s Office charged the councilmember with disorderly conduct. The councilmember has apologized for the incident.

My take: the councilmember showed very poor judgment and did something astonishingly stupid. But the real crime here is Tiny’s charging $32.50 for a dozen chocolate chip cookies.

West U’s favorite columnist Ken Hoffman appears regularly on www.culturemap.com and shows up occasionally to ruin Charlie Pallilo’s show, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m, on SportsMap Radio 94.1 FM.

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George Boehme http://InstantNewsWestU.com <![CDATA[The West U Piranhas are coming]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52042 2018-04-04T18:44:50Z 2018-04-04T17:54:40Z The West University Place Piranhas Swim Team officially starts the 2018 season this week!  Dates impacted begin on April 7 and run through June 28.  During this time, the team will hold tryouts, practices and meets at the West University Place Recreation Center pool. Recreation Center members & customers should be prepared for limited pool availability and potential increased traffic in the parking lot during this time.

Listed below are the dates and times that swim team usage will impact lane and/or pool availability as well as parking at the Recreation Center:

Sat, April 7                         10-11: 30 am Tryouts, minimum of one lap lane available

Fri, April 13                         6-7pm                   Tryouts, minimum of one lap lane available

Mon-Thu, May 14-31          4-7pm                    Practices, lap lanes most likely unavailable

Mon-Thu, June 4-28           7-9am                    Practices, lap lanes unavailable

June 4, 18, 25                    4-11pm                   Meets, pool CLOSED 4-11pm

Lane availability will be very limited May 14-31 from 4-7pm. Staff will attempt to make one lane available during this time, but most likely all lanes will be unavailable.  It is recommended to schedule your swim workout before or after these times. Please call ahead to check availability, 713-662-7420. Lanes will be unavailable June 4-28 from 7-9am. Again, it is recommended to schedule your swim workout before or after these times.

Please call 713-662-7420 for the most up-to-date information, as schedules are subject to change. Thank you in advance for your patience, understanding, and support as our swim team ramps up for another great season.

Good luck West U Piranhas!

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George Boehme http://InstantNewsWestU.com <![CDATA[Parks program sign-up]]> http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52044 2018-04-04T18:52:13Z 2018-04-02T18:49:14Z 2018 Summer Class Registration

Priority Registration

Begins Tuesday, April 3, participants may register in advance for the same classes that they are currently enrolled in or have been enrolled in within the past 30 days.  Registration stars at 5:00am in person at the West University Place Recreation Center, 4210 Bellaire Blvd.

Resident Registration

Begins on Tuesday, April 10 at 5:00am.  You can register in person at the West University Place Recreation Center or online at westutx.gov.

Non-Resident Registration

Begins on Thursday, April 12 at 5:00am.  Register in person at the West University Place Recreation Center or online.

For more information please call the Recreation Center at 713-662-7420.

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