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Inside Today: Our new Food & Drink section debuts today • Page 1B

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SATURDAY | January 18, 2014 | Vol. 60 | No. 11 | www.theleadernews.com | @heightsleader

Houston City Council members say it’s time to fix historic ordinance

IT’S TIME Voting begins today for the cutest pets in the area. See Page 6-7B.

Lawsuit against city’s historic ordinance set for trial on March 24

A SPECIAL LEADER REPORT

THE BRIEF. www.allenSOLDit.com

Law professor believes ordinance may be unconstitutional taking

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832.419.9969

New voter registration certificates in mailboxes

Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Mike Sullivan announced today that the new voter registration certificates are in the mail and reminds voters to review their information. New voter registration certificates are mailed out every two years and it gives the public the opportunity to review their information and update it. The most common reasons voters need to update their voter registration are: • Name Changes – due to marriage or divorce • Moving to a different residence • Deceased individual who was not reported Just visit www.hctax.net, go to the Voter Registration tab and click on Name/Address Change link. Registered voters can also check our website to view their current voter registration information and contact us if they have questions (713-3682000 or tax_voters@hctx.net).

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Monthly meetings of the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission are difficult for some homeowners, especially those who live in the Heights. The city’s amended Historic Preservation Ordinance makes it legal for HAHC members to subjectively approve and deny projects.

Construction in Heights a game of chance by Jonathan McElvy jonathan@theleadernews.com Some would call Clay and Sarah Watson sympathetic figures – victims of a government commission long on hubris, short on legal standards. Others would call the Watsons the problem – homeowners trying to build a gargantuan addition to the back of a petite home in the middle of an historic district where two beds, one bath and front yards must be preserved. On Dec. 12, the Watsons watched, first hand, as the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission ruled on plans to renovate their home on Cortlandt Street in the Heights.

Some Background

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THE INDEX.

Public Safety Food Topics Coupons Puzzles Sports Classifieds

2A 1B 4A 5A 6A 8A 4B

The HAHC is a group of 13 appointed members who are charged with enforcing the city of Houston’s amended Historic Preservation Ordinance. The ordinance, which came with its own controversy and is currently being challenged in court (see accompanying story), makes life simple for historic districts like Germantown or the Old 6th Ward. Any new district (with stress on the word “new”), according to the ordinance, must have approved guidelines for what can and cannot be done to homes in that district. “After approval, the HAHC shall use the criteria within the design guidelines for granting or denying applications for certificates of appropriateness …,” the ordinance reads. So if you live in Germantown, a homeowner seeking to make changes to his or her home has it relatively easy. The homeowner can visit the Planning Department’s website, and on the Germantown page, he or she can find a 58-page document, called “Design Guidelines,” that addresses virtually every renovation scenario possible. Want to make your home bigger in Germantown? The guidelines say the width of front elevation must fall between 24-32 feet on a 1-story home and between 26-33 feet on a 2-story home. The main eave height (basically from the ground to the highest point of the roof pitch) must be between 10-13 feet on a 1-story home and between 19-22 feet on a 2-story home. For as straightforward as the guidelines are for Germantown homes, they are equally as vague for homes in the historic districts of the Heights. In fact, guidelines for homes in the Heights do not exist. Because the Heights was already an historic district, the 2010 ordinance requisite of mandatory guidelines does not apply, according to city officials. Simply put: The Heights has different rules than new historic districts.

After initially being skipped over by members of HAHC, Clay Watson (foreground) listened as Commissioners Doug Bucek (left) and Doug Elliot (center) explained to Watson that they wanted the eave height on his home reduced by eight inches. (Photos by Jonathan McElvy) At the very core of the concern over the amended Historic Preservation Ordinance and the HAHC is that homeowners in the Heights do not have specific Design Guidelines, like the ones available for neighborhoods like Germantown. Rather, members of the HAHC are asked to subjectively decide what is approved and what is denied.

Back to the Watsons

On Dec. 12, Clay and Sarah Watson sat nervously as HAHC called their home from the list of many on the agenda that day. This was their second appearance before HAHC because, during the November meeting, HAHC had “deferred” their project – a tactic used to delay making a decision. In the November deferral, the Watsons were told to bring a 3D rendering for commissioners to see, and Clay Watson was so mad at the deferral that he appeared at a Houston City Council meeting to voice his confusion and displeasure.

About this in-depth series of stories I

n the Dec. 7 edition of The Leader, we published a story about the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission and the struggles some homeowners in the Heights have experienced with renovation and remodeling projects. After that initial report, readers flooded The Leader with thoughts – on both sides of the issue – about HAHC, the city of Houston’s amended Historic Preservation Ordinance and the process for making improvements or changes to homes that are protected by the ordinance. After our initial report, The Leader began a month-long investigation into the amended Historic Preservation Ordinance and the enforcement of that ordinance – namely through the city of Houston’s Planning Department and the HAHC. We conducted more than 30 interviews, on and off the record, we spoke to legal scholars and even researched what the Texas Supreme Court has written about other controversial zoning ordinances across the state. Researching and writing such an extensive report on a single issue is difficult for a newspaper the size of The Leader. One of our major challenges is that this issue impacts only a handful of our readers, thus making it a large investment of time for such a small percentage of our readers. The other challenge is that The Leader, as was the case with every single person interviewed, is not against historic preservation in the Heights. In fact, we were unable to find one person who would speak out against historic preservation. There will be readers who consider this report an attack on historic preservation. Nothing is further from the truth. What The Leader did find is that, by all accounts, the city of Houston and the enforcement of the Historic Preservation Ordinance is inappropriate, if not unconstitutional. One of a newspaper’s greatest responsibilities is to hold government accountable. That has been the case for centuries, and continues to be the case today. As we believe you will find in this report, the city of Houston has an ordinance that must be fixed.

Related Stories Council members Ed Gonzalez, Ellen Cohen and C.O. Bradford all know the Historic Preservation Ordinance must be fixed. Now they’re planning to get everyone in the same room to talk about it.

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The city of Houston’s Planning Department says they are doing exactly what the ordinance requires. HAHC is supposed to use opinion and flexibility to approve home projects in this historic areas of the Heights.

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The Texas Supreme Court has ruled on two zoning cases, saying that zoning ordinances cannot be vague or indefinite. A property law professor says the city’s ordinance sounds unconstitutional.

“I was told to spend $500 to provide a 3D rendering that doesn’t provide any certainty that my house is going to be approved,” he said on Nov. 13. “We’re trying to hit a moving target, and we’re not sure what we can and cannot do.” Watson was prophetic. HAHC Chairman Maverick Welsh opened debate on the Watson house and asked staff members of the Planning Department for their recommendation. The staff, hired for their apparent expertise on these projects, recommended approving the Watsons for a Certificate of

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see Ordinance • Page 3A

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Ray and Kathy Sostak have sued the city of Houston because they believe the amended Historic Preservation Ordinance was passed illegally. The lawsuit says the city violated its own charter by giving ultimate authority to HAHC.

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This isn’t about stopping historic preservation. It’s about fixing the process.


Page 2A • The Leader • January 18, 2014 • @heightsleader

Heights resident helped save man’s life by Michael Sudhalter michael@theleadernews.com On the evening of Dec. 15, Heights resident Joseph Little had just finished watching his beloved New Orleans Saints lose a hardfought game to the Carolina Panthers. What happened next put an NFC South game into proper perspective. Little was driving near Durham and I-10 when he saw a car go by with a man flying on it. All of a sudden, Little saw the man fly off

the car. Little was a passenger in a car, and had his friend stop so he could get out. He told the driver to keep going, to get the other car’s license plate number to call 911. The man, who Little said had flown about a block after he fell off the car, kept trying to run but couldn’t because his leg was broken. He had a broken arm, multiple lacerations and part of his skill was visible. Little, who works in the medical field, gave the victim his Saints jersey to put pressure on his fore-

head until the ambulance showed up 30 minutes later to take him to Memorial Hermann Hospital. “The guy was on the verge of bleeding out when the ambulance came,” Little said. According to our news partner, KHOU Channel 11, the victim met two women at a nearby Starbucks to sell them tickets to the Jay-Z Concert at the Toyota Center. The women told him they didn’t want to leave the car because they had a baby in it, but they allegedly took the tickets without paying for them, and the man was hanging

out of the car as they drove off. The women proceeded to attend the concert on Dec. 19, but the police showed up, too, arresting the driver, Denitra Green, 20, and her passenger, Cessica Darden, 20, charging them both with aggravated robbery in the 179th District Court. Green is being held at $30,000 bond, while Darden is out on bond. KHOU.com reported the victim was hospitalized with several broken bones, crushed fingers and severe road rash. He may lose the use of his fingers.

METRO closing Pinemont Park & Ride

Due to the construction and widening of U.S. 290, METRO will close the Pinemont Park & Ride. The last day of service will be Friday, Jan. 24.

Commuters are encouraged to use the park & ride locations at West Little York, five miles to the north, or the Northwest Transit Center, near 290 and I-10.

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HPD suspects trio of robberies are connected Three robberies in close time and proximity on Tuesday night, on N. Shepherd and Ella Blvd., have led Houston Police Department investigators to believe there’s a strong possibility that the crimes are related. The crime spree began outside an Advanced Auto Parts, 1120 W. 11th St., when four black males in their late teens to early 20s -- all wearing ski masks -- approached a 38-year-old male in the parking lot and stole his wallet and cell phone. One of the suspects was armed with a gun. The suspects never made it into the business, and there were no injuries. Five minutes later, three suspects matching the same description robbed the Valero station at 1544 N. Shepherd. The suspects entered the business and robbed the clerk, taking an undisclosed amount of money from the register. Customers inside the gas station were robbed as well. There were no injuries. At 7:55 p.m., three suspects matching the same description entered the McDonald’s, 3025 Ella Blvd., and jumped the counters to steal money from the registers. They also demanded wallets and cell phones from the customers inside. All of the customers inside the restaurant were adults. There were no injuries. A black Ford or Dodge truck was spotted at the McDonald’s as a possible vehicle for the suspects. HPD’s Robbery Division is working with all three businesses to investigate surveillance photo. If anyone has information on the robberies, contact HPD’s Robbery Division at 713-308-0700 or Crimestoppers.

Constable nabs out of state suspect

A suspect wanted for an out of state residential burglary got a taste of Texas justice on Jan. 9 in Shepherd Park Plaza. Harris County Precinct One Deputies arrested and charged Lionell Cortez Moore with aggravated assault of a police officer, evading and confirmation of the open warrant for residential burglary out of Arkansas. Precinct One Deputies were flagged down by a homeowner in the 1000 block of Martin, in a Shepherd Park Plaza subdivision. A resident complained that the suspicious male had been hanging around the location for approximately three days acting suspicious. Deputies located a black male fitting the resident’s description and confronted the male. Deputies identified the male based on the information the male gave deputies. A search of the males name and revealed a possible open out of state warrant. While waiting verification of the warrant, the deputies attempted to detain the suspect. Once the deputies attempted to handcuff the suspect, he began to struggle with the deputies, allegedly striking one deputy in

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the face and fled the scene on foot. Deputies immediately engaged in a foot pursuit while other units responded to the scene and quickly set up perimeter in efforts to apprehend the suspect. HPD K-9 was called to the scene to assist with the search. After approximately 40 minutes, a Harris County Precinct One unit spotted a male fitting the description of the subject in the 800 block of Curtin where he was taken into custody.

Muy-Hernandez arrested

Police arrested Israel Cruz Muy-Hernandez and charged him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon at 2:40 a.m. on Jan. 5 in the 2700 block of W. T.C. Jester Blvd. Hernandez, 30, allegedly threatened a 26year-old male Muy-Hernandez with a knife, at an apartment complex. There were no injuries.

Attempted robbery at KFC/Taco Bell

For the second time in less than a month, suspects attempted a robbery at the KFC/Taco Bell, 2701 Yale, but this time, they only came away with an employee’s cell phone. Three suspects entered the fast food establishment at 7:45 p.m. Sunday, and one of them was armed. The armed suspect was described as a black male in his late teens or early 20s. The description on the other two was unknown. There were no injuries. On Dec. 19, two suspects robbed the KFC/Taco Bell of an undisclosed amount of cash and an employee’s cell phone. That robbery also occurred at 7:45 p.m.

Assault on Delz

A 41-year-old male said a suspect punched him in the head and pointed a knife at him at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 4 in the 500 block of Delz. The victim described the suspect as a

black male, 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds in his mid to late 20s, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt. The victim refused medical treatment at the scene.

It’s your moment.

Robbery on Elysian

A 15-year-old-boy was robbed at gunpoint by two black male suspects at 1:40 a.m. on Jan. 5 in the 2600 block of Elysian. The victim was robbed of cash and a cell phone by the suspects who were driving a Ford Taurus.

43rd AutoZone robbed

AutoZone, 2202 W. 43rd St., was robbed at 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 9. Two employees were in the store when three black male suspects entered and robbed it at gunpoint. The suspects, two of whom were armed, were described as being between the ages of 18 and 21 and wearing hoodies and ski masks. The suspects took an undisclosed amount of cash.

Robbery on W. 19th

A 41-year-old male was robbed at a bus stop at 10:10 p.m. on Jan. 7 in the 1400 block of W. 19th St. The suspect was described as a black male in his early 30s, 6-foot to 6-foot3 and weighing between 270 to 310 pounds. The suspect was driving a newer model silver Ford Taurus and wearing a black coat. The suspect stole the victim’s wallet and fled the scene in the Taurus. There were no charges.

Granddaughter threatens grandfather

A 29-year-old woman is being investigated for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after her 76-year-old grandfather told police she threatened him with a knife at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 10 in the 200 block of E. 30th St. There were no injuries, and the investigation is ongoing.

Police investigate relationship

A 16-year-old girl who was reported missing was found in the 1400 block of Wakefield. A call to HPD at 7 a.m. Jan. 10 said the girl was with a 30-year-old male. HPD is investigating the type of relationship the two had. There were no injuries. No charges have been filed yet and no one has been arrested.

Hit and run on W. 18th

A female suspect struck a 35-year-old victim with her vehicle and fled the scene at 12:50 a.m. on Jan. 7 in the 4400 block of W. 18th St. The victim refused EMS services at the scene.

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Police investigate possible cat mutilation An elderly Lazybrook resident reported a missing cat last week and hours later found the cat’s remains on her property, covered by a box. She recovered her cat, unharmed, after five days, so it’s unclear the identity of the mutilated cat in the box. The incident occured in the 2200 block of Lazybrook, bringing the total number of mutilated cats # 36774 Ad

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in the Timbergrove/Lazybrook area to 20 since 2008. There have been two or three similar reports in the Garden Oaks area. HPD spokesman John Cannon told The Leader that the majority of those incidents investigated have shown that the cats have been killed by other animals, not people. There is a cash reward being of-

fered by Crimestoppers 222-TIPS (8477) for anyone with info leading to the felony charge or arrest of a suspect in this case, if foul play has been involved. You can remain anonymous. If anyone has specific information on the case, they can contact HPD Sgt. Gary Bender and HPD Off. Suzanne Hollifield. Both can be reached at 713-308-3100.

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Page 3A • The Leader • January 18, 2014 • www.theleadernews.com

City Council members: We know this ordinance is broken by Jonathan McElvy jonathan@theleadernews.com There is a rising tide of criticism against the way some homeowners are being treated by the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission. Oddly enough, the criticism is coming from the very place where the HAHC was given power to arbitrarily approve or deny construction projects in historic areas of the Heights. Ed Gonzalez, who represents District H on the Houston City Council and also serves as Mayor Pro-Tem, has been viewed by some as an ally to Mayor Annise Parker and the HAHC’s current approach

to enforcement of the 2010 Historic Preservation Ordinance. In an interview with The Leader, Gonzalez said he knows some things have to change soon. “I believe there should be predictability,” he said. “This is not meant to Gonzalez be a subjective process. People are holding notes on these homes, and it should be a customer-friendly process.” Gonzalez has not been on the record in The Leader about HAHC prior to this report, but he was adamant that the HAHC process for homeowners in the Heights is broken. “If it’s this complicated, then something is wrong,” Gonzalez said. “The intent is a good one, but

it’s not working.” And Gonzalez, as much as any member of the Houston City Council, should know if the ordinance is not working. He worked handin-hand with former Council member Sue Lovell to draft Bradford the ordinance, and he knows Lovell is not happy with the process today. At issue are the missing guidelines that homeowners in the Heights can’t find when they want to renovate or remodel their homes. “This is incomplete the way it is now,” Lovell said. “We did tell people that we would have guidelines. I know we did. Now, we have created a situation where the whims

and windmills of the commissioners determine the approvals. We cannot make decisions about personal property without guidelines.” Councilman C.O. Bradford, Houston’s former chief of police, has taken a keen interest in Cohen the enforcement of the Historic Preservation Ordinance, and his voice rises a bit when he talks about the injustice being done to some homeowners. “There is absolutely no predictability to how this ordinance is going to be applied,” Bradford said. “Right now, the HAHC is interpreting what they feel, what they like. They are over-reaching, overreaching, over-reaching.” While Gonzalez’s district touch-

es the eastern side of the Heights, most of the area is represented by District C Council member Ellen Cohen, who was not a member of the Council when the Historic Preservation Ordinance (as amended in 2010) was passed. “I know the idea [of historic preservation] has benefits, and that’s to preserve the historical integrity. The intent of the ordinance was good,” Cohen said. But like Gonzalez, who grew up in the Heights, and Bradford, Cohen knows something is wrong. “The question we have to ask is: ‘How do you do this in an equitable and fair way?’,” she said. “I really think it’s time to step back and look at this. What can we do to fix it? We have to look at the way things are being handled right now.” Cohen explained that anything

with good intentions – from running a company to enforcing zoning laws – always has repercussions that no one can see. “I think that’s what we have here, and that’s OK,” she said. “I just think it’s time to step back now and look at it again.” Gonzalez, Cohen and Bradford appear to be moving toward a solution on the confusion in the Heights. Each, in separate interviews with The Leader, said it was time to call a meeting with other council members. “Right now, this is structured in a way that’s open to interpretation,” Gonzalez said. “Maybe there has to be a range of options. And hopefully, within that realm, we can quickly find a way forward. “This shouldn’t be a detrimental process,” he continued. “I want to resolve this.”

City says HAHC is functioning Smaller apparently isn’t always better as historic ordinance stipulates 431 Arlington – APPROVED by Jonathan McElvy jonathan@theleadernews.com

3’ 19’ Front Property Line

see City Response • Page 4A

63’

Back Property Line

When members of the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission approve a project in the Heights and then deny a nearly identical project, they are doing nothing wrong, according to the city of Houston. When members of HAHC use phrases like, “I don’t like the fabric of the optics,” or when they say that a house is “very large, it’s a problem,” as commission member Doug Elliot said to homeowners on Cortlandt Street, he is completely within his rights to do so, according to the city of Houston. Mayor Annise Parker Opinions are apdeclined to be interplauded. In 2010, when viewed for this story. However, at a Nov. the Houston City 13 council meeting, Council amended the Historic she said that adoptPreservation Or- ing guidelines for the dinance, any new Heights could be a historic districts ‘path fraught were required with peril.’ to submit specific guidelines that the City Council would approve and HAHC would use to make decisions on remodeling or renovation projects in that specific district. “That is not the case for the Heights,” said Margaret Wallace Brown, who is an assistant director at the city of Houston Planning & Development Department. Brown handles most of the problems that arise from Heights’ homeowners and often finds herself in the crosshairs between HAHC, builders and homeowners. While the Heights is governed by the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance, there is no specific language in the ordinance, with regards to the Heights, that defines how HAHC members are supposed to rule when a project is brought for

approval. When asked why there wasn’t anything mentioned about the Heights in the 2010 ordinance, Suzy Hartgrove (who works with Brown) didn’t know specifics. “I think there were changes made at the [city] council table [when the ordinance was amended],” Hartgrove said. In that case, Brown said having professional and experienced members of HAHC is the best solution to enforcing the Historic Preservation Ordinance. “The ordinance calls for the [HAHC] to be the protectors of these districts,” she said. “They have to look at it with an eye based on their expertise.” Brown acknowledges that this can cause confusion for some homeowners who want to expand in the Heights. She also says that’s part of the plan. “The 13 people are on the commission for their opinions,” Brown said. “This is not an organization that is robotic. They look at every project based on their beliefs. They were appointed to the position based on their talents.” While some homeowners have their plans denied by HAHC, Brown is quick to produce statistics of how many homeowners pass through the commission without a problem. She said 83 percent of applicants between January-November 2013 received a Certificate of Appropriateness on their first attempt. There were 325 total applicants during that time and 297 eventually received COAs. That means 28 were flatly denied and another 27 were either deferred or denied until they made enough revisions to suit HAHC. Based on Brown’s statistics, 17 percent of applicants have to wade through the arbitrary HAHC waters before being approved or being sent home with no approval. The statistics also do not break down how many of these homes were in the Heights versus homes in other historic districts, where specific guidelines are in place for those seeking renovation approval, making the process much more streamlined. The Leader reached out to Mayor Annise Parker in an attempt to understand her opinion on HAHC and its effectiveness three years after the 2010 Historic

44’

1811 Harvard – DENIED 68’ 9’ 28’

31’

The graphic to the left offers great insight into why homeowners in the Heights struggle to understand how HAHC will rule on individual projects. Both homes met 11 criteria outlined in the Historic Preservation Ordinance. The house at the top, on Arlington, was approved, despite only having 19 feet between the front of the house and the property line. Meanwhile, the house at the bottom, further back from the street, with more room in the back and altogether smaller, was denied by the same commission. There are no specific guidelines for homeowners to follow, which makes the process difficult.

Court opinions suggest unconstitutionality by Jonathan McElvy jonathan@theleadernews.com Despite what homeowners, Houston City Council members, mayors, or city staff members think about the 2010 Historic Preservation Ordinance, and despite what personal opinions people have of the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission, the most important aspect to this ordinance and its enforcement is whether it is legal. Can the city of Houston, and a branch of government, arbitrarily and subjectively enforce a zoning or property law? Is it legal for a city ordinance to allow a commission like HAHC to inconsistently enforce the ordinance based on the personal opinions of the commissioners? A professor of property law at Texas A&M University School of Law believes Houston’s historic preservation ordinance, as it is being applied today, is a

“One of the primary requisites of a valid zoning ordinance is certainty. A particular zoning enactment or provision thereof may be judicially declared to be inoperative and void for uncertainty, vagueness or indefiniteness.” Texas Supreme Court Southern National Bank of Houston v. City of Austin “clear-cut case in which the commission’s actions can result in an unconstitutional taking.” Gabriel Eckstein, a law professor at Texas A&M University School of Law and Of Counsel with the law firm of Sullivan & Worcester in Washington, D.C., discussed the historic preservation ordinance with The Leader. His opinion was

based on facts presented by The Leader, and he has no professional interest in the case. “An authorization to restrict the use of private property has to be supported by some justified governmental purpose – health, safety, welfare, etc.,” Eckstein said. “So, if the legislature authorizes a zoning board to make subjective decisions, even if it does so in very clear language, that authorization to be arbitrary has to be based on some public health, safety, welfare or other governmental objective.” According to Eckstein, this falls in line with the legal principle called “taking. The government can’t take your property,” he said. “Zoning of itself is constitutional,” Eckstein said. “How it is applied and implemented can be questioned.” The Leader attempted to reach Hous-

see Legal • Page 4A

Ordinance • from Page 1A Appropriateness, which is needed to begin construction. Welsh thanked the staff member and then asked if any of the commissioners wanted to discuss the home. There was silence, followed by a motion to approve the COA. The motion was not approved. It was denied. The Watsons, even though they had followed every instruction and had been told by the Planning Department that their plans met the standards in the Heights, were told they could not renovate their home. No discussion from HAHC. Just an out-and-out denial. The scene in the commission chambers elicited visions of a comedic sketch. Clay Watson threw some prepared notes in the air. Sarah Watson threw the only thing she had – her hands – in the air. A gasp went across the crowd, followed by some jeers, while designers and builders looked at each other pointing for someone to do something. Watson finally stood up from his seat and loudly asked why he had been ignored. He had properly placed his name on the agenda, asking for a chance to plead his case before HAHC voted. Welsh, the chairman, turned red. In an embarrassed manner, HAHC rescinded its denial of the Watson home and opened discussions to Clay and Sarah Watson, along with their designer, Sam Gianukos.

‘Fabric of the Optics’

Clay and Sarah Watson eventually got their turn to speak. They asked HAHC to consider that homes next to them on Cortlandt Street were just as big, and even bigger, than their plans. They said they had followed every piece of advice given to them by the staff at the Planning Department. “We have been in the Heights for eight years (almost nine years now). We love

the neighborhood,” Watson said after the meeting. “… We are not the type of people who simply roll over. If we weren’t prepared to fight, we would have never gotten through the process.” Fighting is what the Watsons ultimately did. They listened as two HAHC members explained their reasons for denying the COA. Doug Elliot, a citizen representative on the HAHC, spoke in quiet and deep tones as he tried to explain the philosophy of their decision. He spoke of changes to the way the commission looks at projects “based on the feedback of the neighborhood,” Elliot said. “Our first job is to preserve the historic character… The purpose of the ordinance is to preserve the character of the neighborhood.” David Bucek, an architect serving on the HAHC, said he could not approve the COA because “I just don’t like the fabric of the optics” on this house. Bucek later said the house “would look much better to me” if the eave height were lower. Gianukos, who has designed homes in the Heights since 1976, stood up and shook his head at the HAHC. “I try to keep telling my clients what I think you want, but you make it very, very difficult to pin this down,” he said. Bucek and Elliot spent another five minutes explaining to Gianukos that despite previous approvals they had made for eave heights on some homes, it did not matter what they had done in the past. Every home was its own decision. In other words, HAHC has legal authority to make decisions on homes based on their personal preferences. After 30 minutes of conversation, HAHC relented and approved the Watson home, so long as the Watsons reduced the eave height on their home by eight inches. The 8-inch reduction was written nowhere in stone. It was simply the way

commissioners felt on this specific day, for this specific house. Ultimately, renovation plans were put off for three months because of eight inches of eave height – or 3 percent lower than the original drawings. For the Watsons, the toughest part is now out of the way. Or is it? “We are not through the process yet,” Clay Watson said. “We are currently trying to select a contractor. I do really worry that we will have problems along the way and be required to resubmit [to HAHC]. We will deal with that if it comes.”

Regretted Vote

Watson and his wife are like countless other homeowners in the Heights who spoke with The Leader during this report. They supported the Historic Preservation Ordinance in 2010. They are dumbfounded by it today. “This isn’t about preservation,” Watson said. “If the status quo continues, and I was a buyer looking at two identical homes in the Heights (one in a historic district and one outside a historic district), I would pay a premium for the home outside the district. This is a complete reversal of what I would have thought when I voted ‘yes’ for the [2010 Historic Preservation] Ordinance.” Why do folks like the Watsons regret supporting the Historic Preservation Ordinance? In interviews conducted by The Leader, homeowners and builders pointed to the inconsistent approach of HAHC. When Bucek said he did not like “the fabric of the optics” on the Watson home, that was his personal opinion. When Elliot spoke at length about precedent meaning nothing in how HAHC rules, it verified that commissioners can simply make up decisions as they go. Bucek and Elliot aren’t wrong for the approach to their rulings. They are literally following the charge given to them

by the city of Houston, the City Council and, in ways, the amended Historic Preservation Ordinance. What voters may not have realized when supporting the ordinance is that construction on homes in the Heights is left to the discretion of the people who serve on the HAHC. The rules are as subjective as the commissioners choose to make them.

More Confusing Examples

The Watsons are just one example of the confusion that runs rampant for homeowners in the Heights. Here are examples of other homeowners and their arbitrary denials by HAHC.

50 percent back

One family on Cortlandt Street was denied because their addition started 50 percent back from the front of the house. The problem is that the 2010 Historic Preservation Ordinance says an addition must “not encroach into the front half of the existing structure, measured from the front façade of the existing structure…” The ordinance is clear as day, assuming half is the same thing as 50 percent. These homeowners were told they had to move the house back 67 percent and then 75 percent, because HAHC liked the way that looked better.

Gable or No Gable

At the December HAHC meeting, one family on Frasier Street brought two sets of drawings to the commission. One of the drawings had a gable on the second story addition; the other drawings eliminated the gable. The commission looked at both sets of drawings and approved the plans for a gable. Shortly thereafter, another couple who lived not far from the home on Frasier Street, brought only one set of drawings, which included a gable. The

commission approved the COA contingent on removing the gable, even though they had just approved another home that contained a gable. They just didn’t like it on this house.

Save the Asbestos

A home on Harvard Street was recently red-tagged by the Planning Department because the owners began removing stucco from the house. The historic inspector, Pete Stockton, said the stucco was not original, but HAHC wouldn’t approve the removal. (According to the ordinance, original materials must be preserved.) Instead, HAHC deferred the project because they needed more information. Meanwhile, the homeowners paid for an asbestos abatement (close to $10,000) and asbestos was found in the stucco. The builder says HAHC claims the ordinance “doesn’t cover” asbestos, and they aren’t sure if stucco was an original material (meaning it would have to stay) – despite the asbestos. So HAHC said it could not approve removing the stucco, even though the inspector said it was not original material.

Good Here, Bad There

Another builder submitted a renovation project for a home on Arlington Street, and the home was approved by HAHC. The following month, the same builder took the same remodel drawings to the HAHC for another house. The only difference was the second house was smaller than the first one. Same street, same plans. This time, HAHC denied the COA. If that’s not enough, the same builder used the same plans for a third house. Again, this house was smaller than the original that was approved. And again, the plan was denied. The builder appealed both rulings and won.


Page 4A • The Leader • January 18, 2014 • @heightsleader

Heights residents’ suit against city ordinance set for March 24 trial by Jonathan McElvy jonathan@theleadernews.com The city of Houston is the defendant in a lawsuit filed by a Heights family that claims the 2010 Historic Preservation Ordinance was passed illegally. Ray and Kathy Sostak filed suit on June 21, 2012, asking that the District Court in Harris County overturn the ordinance and pay compensatory and punitive damages for losses incurred by the ordinance. The suit, filed by Stephen V. Buttram and Derrick M. Saulsberry, is slated for trial on March 24.

Buttram and Saulsberry did not return phone calls to The Leader, but their case claims the city of Houston broke all kinds of election laws when it passed the 2010 Historic Preservation Ordinance. Among the complaints: The Mayor and City Council approved an amendment to the ordinance that placed a moratorium on 90-day waiver certificates. Before the 2010 amendment was passed, homeowners in historic districts in Houston could be denied by the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission, wait 90 days, and if they wanted to proceed with the changes, including demolition, the law allowed for such. The 2010 amendment to the ordinance removed that 90-day period, making the HAHC’s ruling final. “The original ordinance provided that ‘prior to any amendment of this article,

Coming Next Week Michael Bastian is literally on a chicken run. He purchased the poultry processing plant on 12th and Rutland in the Heights and had grand plans to revitalize the area with new, Victorian-esque homes. Instead, Bastian has found himself caught in the confusion of the Planning Department and the HAHC, where his plans have been denied. As of press time, Bastian was scheduled to appear before HAHC at their January meeting. Bastian said he would venture into unchartered territory and flat out ask: “Tell me. What will you allow? Find out next week what the HAHC said.

the HAHC and the commission each shall conduct one public hearing to solicit comments on the proposed amendments.’ No hearings were ever held prior to the amendment of the Original Ordinance,” the suit reads. Another complaint in the suit is that the city of Houston deprived the Sostaks of their federal rights secured by the U.S. Constitution. “The City’s unconstitutional actions wrongfully denied Plaintiff ’s rightful use of its property.” The Sostak suit also alleges the city broke Texas Election Code. “The City ordered the special election… for the Heights East, Heights West, Heights South, Avondale West and Boulevard Oaks Historic Districts on December 2, 2010 and mailed notices of this special election to property owners ON December 3, 2010,” the suit says. “The special

election for the Heights East, Heights West and Heights South Historic districts commenced on December 8, 2010… This notice violates Section 3.005 of the Election Code which requires an election ordered by an authority of a political [sic] shall be ordered not later than the 62nd day before election day.” The most often discussed concern about the city’s ordinance is also mentioned in the Sostak suit. The city of Houston’s ballot allegedly made the entire process complicated for voters in historic districts. “Namely, the City violated Section 52.073 of the Election Code by failing to include “FOR” or “AGAINST” with squares to allow voters to indicate their choice on the proposed ordinance,” says the suit. According to the Sostaks, the ballot for this support of the ordinance was “virtu-

Helping Lead the Fight

City Response • from Page 3A

Sam Gianukos, who has lived in the Heights area for almost 40 years, owns Creole Design and works with homeowners looking to renovate in the historic district. He is a regular at HAHC meetings, has spoken at city council meetings, and has pleaded with anyone who will listen to implement design guidelines.

Legal • from Page 3A ton City Attorney David Feldman multiple times to request a response to Eckstein’s opinions. Feldman did not return those requests. Eckstein said it would be feasible for a government to pass an ordinance or a law that incorporated “vagueness.” Put another way, and specific to the 2010 Historic Preservation Ordinance, Eckstein said an ordinance could specifically say the enforcement will be arbitrary and subjective. “The only problem is I can’t think of a single case that authorizes vagueness,” he said. “I don’t think that would ever be ruled constitutional. If it has, I’ve never seen it.”

Supreme Court Rulings

During the course of researching the city of Houston’s amended Historic Preservation Ordinance, The Leader found two Texas Supreme Court cases that address specific zoning ordinances and their legalities. The first case, Spann v. City of Dallas (1921), ruled on the validity of an ordinance of the city of Dallas prohibiting construction “of any business house within what the ordinance denominates a residence district of the City…” The plaintiff, John Spann, ques-

tioned the city of Dallas because, in this instance, the city used a single inspector to determine whether or not Spann’s building broke the city’s zoning ordinance. The Texas Supreme Court answered that the ordinance was not constitutional, mainly because an inspector had full authority to arbitrarily enforce the ordinance. “The ordinance leaves it to the unbridled discretion of the inspector to disapprove the design, resulting in a refusal of the permit and the prohibition of the building,” the opinion said. “This leaves the right to construct the building subject to the arbitrary discretion of the inspector, and of itself renders the ordinance void. The very essence of American constitutions is that the material rights of no man shall be subject to the mere will of another.” While that appears to be a strong opinion about the legality of arbitrary enforcement of a zoning law, another Texas Supreme Court case speaks even more directly to historic preservation enforcement. In Southern National Bank of Houston v. City of Austin (1979), the property owners sued the city of Austin to prevent them from “enforcing

against their properties certain ordinances pertaining to historic landmark preservation.” Among other findings, the Supreme Court ruled that an “article of city code dealing with procedure for obtaining building permit, removal permit, demolition permit and for altering exterior of building during pendency of consideration of building structure as historic landmark was unconstitutional.” In that opinion, the Texas Supreme Court specifically addressed a glaring problem with the city’s ordinance, as it was written: “One of the primary requisites of a valid zoning ordinance is certainty,” the opinion says. “A particular zoning enactment or provision thereof may be judicially declared to be inoperative and void for uncertainty, vagueness, or indefiniteness… There is a power over the property of landowners in the City of Austin which must be harnessed by appropriate standards and guidelines.” While Houston’s City Attorney did not return calls seeking comment on the Texas Supreme Court cases, Houston City Councilmember C.O. Bradford, an attorney, said the Court’s opinions seem definitive.

ally identical” to a previous request that property owners had been sent about this ordinance. “The Reconsideration Ballot gave property owners an opportunity to only indicate support for repeal of (and not indicate support for) the New Ordinance. Property owners had just 15 days prior to the Christmas holidays to complete and return the signed Reconsideration Ballot to the City. This scheme of voting under the Transition Ordinance had the effect of counting non-voting property owners as continuing support ‘for’ the New Ordinance.” According to the Harris County District Clerk’s office, the city of Houston has filed a motion for summary judgment, though Judge Elaine Palmer has not ruled on that motion. Calls placed to Houston City Attorney David Feldman seeking comment on this suit were not returned.

“I know one thing,” Bradford said. “You don’t have to be an attorney to understand what that means. Sure seems crystal clear to me.”

Challenges of City Ordinances

While Eckstein and the Texas Supreme Court have offered opinions about the legality of indefinite and vague zone ordinances, an assistant city attorney in Plano offered yet another apparent indictment on the enforcement of the 2010 Historic Preservation Ordinance in Houston. Rodney D. Patten presented a paper to the Riley Fletcher Basic Municipal Law Seminar in 2006, and the paper spoke directly to zoning ordinances that are not specific. “The first step in evaluating whether a law is unconstitutionally vague is to determine if the statue provides adequate notice of what conduct is prohibited,” Patten wrote. “The second step is to determine if the statute is drafted in a manner that fosters arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement… It is best, therefore, to have clear and concise detailing or prohibited conduct written into the regulation or at least referred to in the regulation… The language must be specific.”

Preservation Ordinance was approved. Parker’s office declined the opportunity through Janice Evans, director of communications/policy. “… If you are wanting to do a follow up, you might contact the planning department again,” Evans responded. “I think they would welcome the opportunity to talk more about the process and the tools available to help homeowners put together projects that won’t face difficulties getting approved. For instance, 90 percent of all applications to the HAHC are getting approved. Perhaps you would want to tell that story.” That is part of the story, even if the numbers are elevated. But whether through Evans or Brown, no one in the city will deny that HAHC is encouraged to make subjective decisions. “We don’t think there should be too much consistency,” Brown said. “With too much consistency… If we said everything has to be red brick, or everything has to be 1920s cottage [style], then everything would look the same.” Instead, Brown believes the HAHC should have the power to use their professional eyes to make decisions. “We’re trying to strike a balance between consistency and flexibility,” she said. “What the community doesn’t want to have are homes that look the same. Sometimes, [the process is] easier than others.” As for guidelines specific to the Heights, Brown likes to use the phrase “little ‘g’” guidelines. She said there are no “Guidelines,” but that there is a manual on the Planning Department’s website that helps homeowners. “I’ll be the first one to admit that we probably need drawings to go with this manual,” Brown said. Builders who spoke to The Leader said that phrase has been used for almost two years but that no drawings for “Big G” Guidelines have been implemented. While Parker refused to speak with The Leader for this story, she has spoken publicly about guidelines for the Heights. “I’m certainly not opposed to design guidelines,” she said at a Nov. 13 Houston City Council meeting. “They weren’t called for in the updated ordinance except for districts that came after the ordinance, so places like Germantown have them.” Parker, like Brown, said she understood that the Planning Department was working on a set of illustrations, “but any design guidelines would have to be voted upon district by district by the city council. Sue Lovell, a former member of the Houston City Council and the one person credited (or blamed) for the drafting of the amended Historic Preservation Ordinance in 2010, has been an outspoken critic of HAHC and its “reckless” interpretation of the ordinance as it relates to the Heights. Lovell now has a consultation business, where she actually earns money to help homeowners beat the ordinance she helped draft. During the Nov. 13 Council meeting, Lovell spoke directly to council members and voiced her displeasure at the process, calling for specific guidelines for homeowners. Parker again said she was not opposed to the idea, but she added a caveat. “I think that’s a path fraught with peril because I’m not sure there’s a single member of city council who is an expert in that area,” Parker said. “So be careful what you wish for.”

Commentary

Time for the city and her leaders to do the right thing – fix this

T

oday’s stories on the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission and its enforcement of the amended Historic Preservation Ordinance are going to rub some people the wrong way. In fact, I expect there will be a great deal of ire directed at me, The Leader, and at some of the people associated with these articles. We do not write stories like this and expect unanimous consent among our readers. We also do not take the responsibility of writing such an in-depth (and sometimes acrimonious) report lightly. We know a series of stories like this comes with consequences, and we are prepared to hear from readers and government officials who may dispute the thesis of this report on “Preservation Perverted.” We also know this story has an actual impact on just a handful of our readers. For those in Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and the neighborhoods of North Houston, you don’t have to worry with historic preservation ordinances, and some of you don’t always want to read about news from the Heights. If you can stick with me for a few paragraphs, I think you’ll understand why a story like this was worthy of such extensive coverage. Here’s the unfortunate part about the guaranteed backlash against our report on the enforcement of our historic preservation ordinance: The anger is going to be directed at the complete wrong thing. Not a single person (minus our editors) has read these stories yet, and I already know what letters will come from

JONATHAN MCELVY Publisher

readers. First, we will be accused of opposing historic preservation. Even though you will not find one sentence in any of our stories that implies a single person is against preservation, we will be accused of trying to turn the Heights into Sugar Land. We will be told that we would rather see every historic home torn down and replaced with gaudy “McMansions,” as they’re called, despite the fact that no one believes that. The headline says our current preservation efforts are perverted. That doesn’t mean we don’t believe in preservation. But it’s a fact of this business – people read what they want to read. Here’s another accusation that will be made against us: The Leader is selling out to the builders. After our first story on Dec. 7, and my subsequent column calling on the city to make changes to the enforcement of the ordinance, one reader told us she would now be looking through our newspaper to find out which builders are supporting us. The funny thing is that of all the interviews we did

with builders, not a single one of them advertises with The Leader. Sure, we’d like them in the paper as much as we’d like every other business to use us as a marketing tool, but be assured there are no payoffs. The last point some readers will make with us is that our series on “Preservation Perverted” was one-sided, and that’s one point I will not vehemently dispute. We’ll be told that we were not “Fair and Balanced,” and because of that, our report lacks merit. I have a couple of answers to that, which probably shouldn’t quiet the critics. For starters, we reached out to the highest ranking officials at the city of Houston. Mayor Annise Parker’s office said she would not grant us an interview for this story. City Attorney David Feldman’s office returned a call, promised that he would call, yet we never heard from him. We spent more than an hour sitting with Margaret Wallace Brown and her staff at the city’s Planning Department, and Brown was as gracious and clearspoken as a person being asked tough questions could be. Brown is a consummate professional, and she is doing the job she’s been asked to do by the city. So why have we spent so much ink on a story that impacts only a few hundred of our readers? The answer lies in the responsibility of a free press. If we’re talking about this issue specifically, what we found in our reporting was that homeowners, builders, designers and regular old citizens have all

– at some point or another – approached members of city government to voice their displeasure. As far as we could tell, the complaints have been voiced for more than two years now. The problem is, those complaints were piecemeal. One person here and one person there making a complaint doesn’t always carry a lot of weight in bureaucracy. But when a newspaper like The Leader can take all the stores and combine them into one, that usually carries a bit more influence. A newspaper’s role, and I still believe this despite a decline in our industry, is to hold government accountable. After more than 30 interviews for this story, we do not believe the amended Historic Preservation Ordinance is legal. We do not believe a government can have property laws that defer to the whims of individuals. And that’s why this story is about so much more than a simple zoning ordinance or the few hundred people impacted by its enforcement. This is about how government operates. Consider this scenario: What if the city of Houston passed a law dictating how your car can look? What if they said you can only have so many bumper stickers, or what if they could restrict the color of your car? Now, what if the law was enforced by a commission of 13 people who made you drive your car into a building for inspection? And what if they said a red truck is OK but a red sedan is not OK, simply because they don’t like the way the color

looks on a sedan? Oh, and on some models of sedans, it’s OK, but not on others. Or what if they said one car could have 22 bumper stickers and another car could only have 18 stickers, simply because they didn’t like the way 22 stickers looked on your car? So much for the art cars. Sounds ridiculous, right? But I don’t know that there’s much difference in that hypothetical property law and the way our Historic Preservation Ordinance is being enforced. Whether it’s a car or a house, the city is allowing a subjective board of commissioners to make up rules as they go. As we said in this report, the commissioners are not wrong, right now. Many do not like it, but our Historic Preservation Ordinance – as currently written – legally allows the HAHC to make these types of rulings. In one of our stories, three important members of the Houston City Council all said it is time to make a change to the enforcement of this issue. Ed Gonzalez, Ellen Cohen and C.O. Bradford all know this is the right thing to do. Save the Historic Preservation Ordinance. Make it workable for people in the Heights. Prove to your constituents that you can work though a difficult issue, because this one is going to be a doozy. Mayor Parker says you’re walking down a path that is “fraught with peril,” and she’s absolutely right. But just because it’s a difficult assignment doesn’t mean you can ignore it. That’s why we elected you. Email jonathan@theleadernews.com


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University of Houston, from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Jan. 23. There will also be exhibits and networking. The hotel is located at 3000 North Loop West. Information: 713861-6735, www.heightschamber.com.

gauge and other materials. Men are welcome to attend. Space is limited to 15 participants. Information: 713-6955071, after hours 713-826-1603, www. adolfhoepfl.com.

CHILDREN’S RAFFLE Leather Apron Foundation

FIRST FINANCIAL NIGHT GHACC/Waltrip High School

A children’s raffle with toys for prizes will be held 6-11 p.m. Jan. 25, at SPJST, 1435 Beall St. The proceeds benefit the family of Matthew Garman. Tickets can be purchased on the website. The cost is $10 per child (age 5-12), age 4 and under are free. Adult tickets are $25. Enjoy unlimited barbecue and a live band.

OLDIE AND GOODIE CAR SHOW Adolf Hoepfl and Son Garage

Gear up for the fourth annual car show to be held from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Jan. 25 at Adolf Hoepfl and Son Garage, 4610 N. Shepherd. Early registration is $15 and includes a T-shirt and goody bag. Event day registration is $25. Participation is limited to the first 30 cars that register. Proceeds will benefit the Unit 808 of the Texas National Guard which was recently deployed to Afghanistan. Information: 713-695-5071, after hours 713-826-1603, www.adolfhoepfl.com.

LADIES CAR CLINIC Adolf Hoepfl and Son Garage

Join Virginia and Sybren van der Pol as they teach the essentials of basic car maintenance from 6-8 p.m. Jan. 25, at 4610 N. Shepherd. The cost is $10 and includes a complimentary tire pressure

The Greater Heights Area Chamber of Commerce and Waltrip High School are co-sponsoring a free night of financial information from 6-8 p.m. Jan. 28. The event will be held at Waltrip High School, 1900 W. 34th St. Information: 713-8616735, www.heightschamber.com.

‘DON GIOVANNI’ PREVIEW Opera in the Heights

Ann Thompson will preview Opera in the Heights’ production of Don Giovanni at 1517 Bracher St., Houston 77055. The presentation will be 7:30-9:30 p.m. Jan. 29. The cost is $5 and includes refreshments, visuals and commentary. Information: 713-465-0755.

������� ��������� • Full Photo Packages ����������� • Photo Invitations • Photo Name cards, etc.

Reunions JOHN H. REAGAN CLASS OF 1974 REUNION Cadillac Bar

The 40-year reunion will be held from 6-11:30 p.m. April 12, at the Cadillac Bar, 1802 Shepherd Dr. Early reservation cost is $50 per person if postmarked by Feb. 15; $60 per person thereafter and at the door, and includes appetizers, dinner, dessert, music and dancing. There will be a cash bar and a silent auction. Checks or money orders should be made payable to: John H. Reagan Class of 1974. E-mail Karen (Andrews) Kowal (karen.andrews44@yahoo. com) for payment mailing information.

Pet Cremations

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The Puzzles.

REGISTRATION BREAKFAST Northwest Flyers Youth Track Club

The Northwest Flyers Youth Track Club will be hosting a free registration/information breakfast at 8:15 a.m. Feb. 2, for all boys and girls interested in joining this track season. The breakfast will be held at the Cypress Creek Christian Community Center Forum, 6823 Cypresswood Dr., Spring 77379. Information: www.northwestflyers.org, linette.roach@sbcglobal. net or 281-587-8442.

Solutions in this issue’s classsied section.

Heights Christian Church, 1703 Heights Blvd., will have a free movie matinee at 2 p.m. Jan. 18, in the fellowship hall. The community is welcome to see the movie “Courageous.” There will be light refreshments served. Call 713-861-0016 for information.

All Saints TALC to hold spring registration

All Saints Third Age Learning Center will hold its 2014 Spring Registration for classes and activities from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 23. Registration Ad # 33488 will take place in the

church parish hall, 215 E. 10th St. Classes begin Feb. 3, and late registration will continue Feb. 3-Feb. 14. TALC offers a variety of classes and activities for seniors 50 and older. Some of the classes offered for the 2014 Spring Semester include watercoloring and art, woodworking, stained glass, exercise, computer, line dancing, sewing, quilting and more. Seniors can enjoy a full course hot lunch for $2. Lunch is served Monday through Friday during the semester at noon. For information call Ad # 34138 713-248-1277.

Vendors needed for St. Andrew’s Spring Bazaar

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1819 Heights Blvd., will host a Spring Bazaar from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 1. The bazaar will take place rain or shine. Artists, crafters and specialty vendors are needed to fill the booths at the event. Vendors interested in showing and selling their wares in the bazaar can call 713-861-5596 or register online at www.saecheights. org.

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Church Guide Oaks Presbyterian Church

Grace United Methodist Church “The Heart of the Heights”

1245 Heights Blvd.

Sunday School - 9:30 a.m. Sunday Worship - 10:30 a.m. Nursery Provided

Sunday School . . . . . . . 9:30 AM Sunday Worship . . . . . 10:45 AM Nursery Provided

Ministering to the Oak Forest Community since 1948 Reverend Noelie Day

Reverend Hill Johnson, Pastor

713 862-8883

Gospel Truth Church Sunday 10:30 am Worship and The Word Children’s Church Wednesday 7:30 pm Life Equip classes for all ages

1624 W 34th • 713-686-7689 www.gospeltruthchurch.org

(713) 682-2556 1576 Chantilly @ Piney Woods

Food Pantry, Thurs. 2-4:30 PM www.graceintheheights.org

GETHSEMANE LUTHERAN CHURCH 4040 Watonga • 713-688-5227 Reverend John Cain, Pastor Worship Services 8:00 a.m. & 10:30 a.m. (Nursery Provided) Sunday School & Bible Classes 9:15 a.m. Preschool Program • Mon. - Fri. 9-2 p.m. www.gethsemanelutheran.org

Member of MANNA

1822 W. 18th

ACROSS Cont... 45. Flows to the Danube at Belgrade 49. World data organization (abbr.) 50. Comedian Sahl 51. Porch furniture wood 53. Potato state 54. American Pickers 56. Yellow-fever mosquitos 58. Edison’s company 59. Axis and offshoot angle 60. Standard 63. Blame (Scottish) 64. Esoteric 65. Pronounces

NEWS FROM YOUR PEWS

Heights Christian presents movie ‘Courageous’

713-869-4641

Hours: Tuesday - Friday 10:00-5:30; Saturday 10:00-2:00, Closed Monday

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1216 Bethlehem at Ella Blvd. (713) 688-7761 Sunday School 9:30 AM Morning Worship10:45 AM Pastor Don Joseph Member of MANNA Visit us on FaceBook www.oakscchouston.org

Sunday - Bible Study For All Ages .. 9:30am Morning Worship............ 10:45am Age Graded Zones ...........6:15pm Wed. Prayer Meeting & Missions Organization .....................6:15pm Dr. John W. Neesley - Senior Pastor

713-864-1470

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1. Any wrist bone 2. Baltimore bird 3. Czar’s nation 4. Regulated food 5. Space next to someone 6. Expunction 7. Trauma center 8. Spanish yes 9. Matters 10. Twist out of shape 13. Toward 14. Renders able for a task 15. An extended social group 20. Article 21. GMA anchor’s initials 22. Streetcar 23. Summer month (abbr.) 27. Not widely distributed 29. Plays great music 30. Female 1776 descendants 31. Speed gauge ratio 32. Old English 33. After B 34. Expressing sorrow 35. More hearty, rmer 36. Taxis 37. Single pip card 38. 50th state 40. A source of worry 41. Eight sided 42. Highest military valor award (abbr.) 44. Former Harvard Pres. Derek 45. Drinking tubes 46. Loss of coordination 47. Self-love 48. Talus joints 50. Accumulator 51. Rural delivery 52. Lady Soul’s initials 54. Prex indicating abstraction 55. Hawaiian goose 57. Prince William’s mom, Lady __ 61. Aid organization (abbr.) 62. Farm state

I

GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT

n First Corinthians, Paul speaks of various spiritual gifts, including the gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues, healing, teaching, and even helping and administration. It is clear from the context that Paul is talking about individual gifts which benet the Christian community. Some will be teachers and some will be preachers. Some will speak in tongues while others will interpret their utterances. All are essential for the health and benet of the whole, in the same way that the parts of the body are all essential for the integrity and well-being of the whole body. We should cultivate the spiritual gifts which God has bestowed on us, in the same way that we should not let any useful talent go to waste. While some gifts are deemed to be “higher” than others, we should remember that every gift has its place in the well-integrated community. Prophets and preachers may be more edifying than helpers and administrators, but every church needs its helpers and administrators to function smoothly. We should reect on our spiritual gifts and how we can develop them to maximize our contribution to our church and the larger body of Christ.

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A House of Hope and Prayer in the Heart of Houston Rev. Herschel Moore, Pastor

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Page 7A • The Leader • January 18, 2014 • www.theleadernews.com

Beat the Press T

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be rolling in the huge ratings and practically be heroes to the country instead of its enemies, always screaming ‘it’s my first amendment right to say what I want!’ then championing the public persecution of Phil Robertson for doing the exact dame (sic) thing you hypocrites.” I side with Clint rather than the people of Sanderson. Who needs newspapers? As for Tetyana Chornovol, she shouldn’t feel special. At least she’s alive and not even in jail. The Committee to Protect Journalists or CPJ said in a recent report that a record-number 232 journalists are imprisoned worldwide and that Turkey has the highest number with 49 journalists behind bars. The total is 53 more than the tally last year and is the highest number since the organization began conducting worldwide surveys in 1990. The census of journalists behind bars on Dec. 1 found that anti-state charges such as terrorism, treason and subversion were the most common brought against journalists in 2013. At least 132 journalists are being held around the world on such charges, CPJ said. Good, lock ‘em up and throw away their curiosity. Among the worst jailers of the press is Iran, with 45 behind bars. The group cited news reports that said Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti was arrested in October and died after being beaten and hung by his limbs from the ceiling. The overwhelming majority of the 232 detainees are local journalists being held by their own governments. Just three foreign journalists were on the list. Who said the pen is mightier than the sword? Hehehe. The saga of jailed journalist is not limited to the dungeons of tyrannies. Vanessa Leggett was a writer who, in 1996, investigated a Houston murder case to write a

book about it. She refused to hand over her notes to the FBI and she spent a record (then) 168 days in a federal prison. During that time there were three journalists in prison in the Western Hemisphere for doing their jobs. Two were in Cuba. The third was in Houston, Texas. Then there are those who reached their own deadlines. The CPJ reports that 70 journalists were killed in the line of duty in 2013. In 2012 the number was 74. In past years it’s reached 117. I don’t know of any other civilian profession that keeps such death totals – or needs to. Next time you are in Washington visiting your money, drop by the Newseum, an exhibition given over to journalism. It’s a fun place filled with the Fourth Estates’ mistakes, stupid stories and bad headlines: “Dewey Defeats Truman.” There are also less-funny items like the eyeglasses, pencil and notebook of Mark Kellogg. He was an AP reporter assigned to cover Custer at Littlebig Horn, and, no, he didn’t side with the Indians. There is also a wall covered with the names of journalists killed in the line of duty. But the name of William Cowper Brann isn’t there. He was a Waco newspaper editor. In 1898 he was gunned down on a street corner by an irate reader. After he was buried, someone fired a bullet into his tombstone. Yes, the world would be a better place without reporters, editors and the press in general. They keep telling us things we’d rather not know. Don’t take my word for it. Consider this observation by one of the major players of the 20th Century. “Why should freedom of speech and freedom of the press be allowed? Why should a government which is doing what it believes to be right allow itself to be criticized? It would not allow opposition by lethal weapons. Ideas are much more fatal things than guns. Why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinion calculated to embarrass the government?” – Nicolai Vladmir Lenin. Hey, Nick, meet Clint. Y’all have a lot in common.

Ella Blvd

oday let’s briefly discuss Tetyana Chornovol, Sanderson, Texas, and reader Clint, what we all have in common and why we should care. It has to do with the press and newspapers, just like the one you are holding right now. We shall start with Tetyana Chornovol, but we can’t really talk to her. She’s under heavy medication in a hospital in Kiev, Ukraine, having been savagely beaten by some government thugs who get delight in smashing 34-year-old female journalists with fists and clubs. She became famous last year after documenting the opulence of the heavily guarded residential compound of Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovich. Photographs taken in a hospital where Chornovol was said to be undergoing surgery showed her lying on a bed, her face battered and bloodied, with one eye blackened and shut, and her lips hugely swollen and cut. A well-deserved fix, don’t you agree? Next we have the dusty West Texas town of Sanderson (pop. 900 and dropping). It is 67 miles south of Fort Stockton, which, itself, is not close to anything. Sanderson lost most stores, including Kerr Mercantile, and the Ford dealership. Its 11-man football team became 6-man. Then its local newspaper, the Terrell County News-Leader, shut down in July, leaving only a public bulletin board for local news. That was too much for the Sandersonians. Some of them got together and created the Terrell County Sun, which hit the streets in early December. (The newspaper is non-profit, just like General Motors and BlackBerry.) “When I saw that first edition, I said, ‘This is a collector’s item, this is historical.’ I dang near cried,” said County Commissioner Kenn Norris. “You miss it because a newspaper creates some buzz in town.” So the buzz is back in Sanderson. This brings us to one of my reader(s), Clint. He wrote me a letter much like those received by accountants, pediatricians and violinists: “Want to print something virtuous? Write an article pointing out that it is biased, inaccurate and agenda-based letters written by people like yourself. . . . All you guys would have to do is do your job instead of lie... And you would

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Art a la Carte:

A higher calling for art The Sojourn Community dirt, sticks, found objects, as well Church of the Heights supports as printmaking processes and colthe arts with a unique program lage.” Her paintings and sculpture have a story to tell, and she called the Sojourn uses whatever means at her Studio Residency. disposal to tell it! Ryan Pennington, Christina Macal’s studio Worship and Arts by contrast was spotless. Minister started the Granted she just moved program and oversees in so I expect a return visit it. Sojourn gives chowill reveal more of Macal’s sen artists a cash stipersonality. Specializing pend and space to crein painting and drawing, ate an installation or most notably with ink, Maseries of work over the cal was working on a series course of two months Mitch Cohen of rubbings from fabrics with a biannual exhi- Arts Columnist with unique textures when bition also hosted by I visited. She’s very excited about the church. I visited the artist studios re- being part of the program and cently at the invitation of full time although she loves her job at the artist in residence and program Museum of Fine Arts Houston, curator, Jenn Fox (Jenniferfoxart. laments that she cannot spend com). Fox, her husband Taylor more time working on her art at Brown and current artist in resi- Sorjourn. The first artist reception is set dence, Christina Macal (ChristinaMacal.com) greeted me on ar- for March 14 from 6-9 p.m. at rival and gave me the grand tour. 1834½ Westheimer Rd. above Brown (TaylorBrownArt.com), Paulie’s Restaurant. also an artist, has a studio elseYou do not need to be affiliated where. Their Sojourn studios are with any particular religion to take in an annex building of the church part in this residency. For more and are stripped clean of flooring information, email full time artist so paint and other spills cause no in residence, Jenn Fox at jennifer. permanent damage. They are sur- erin@live.com. Sojourn Comrounded by offices and open class- munity Church (SojournHeights. rooms. com) is located at 608 Aurora St. I should not have been surSaturday, Jan. 18 prised to find the same conditions Hardy & Nance Studios 3rd when I stepped into Fox’s studio. Saturday Open Studios, 902 Her oversized installation pieces, Hardy St. New at Hardy & Nance two large plaster sculptures of Tricyclical Artists Grand Opening, men in repose - still in progress - where Houston based artists Stäcy dominated the space. Other works Smith, Allison Currie and Em on canvas stretched from floor to Connor invite you to join them at ceiling as well as those adorned the opening of their new studio, with found objects in mixed media #17 1-5 p.m. With an evening rescreaming for my attention. The ception from 6-10 p.m. obligatory quotes were scrawled Thursday, Jan. 23 on the walls, objects of interest, or Chris Hedrick Art Reception, perhaps waiting for application, 6-9 p.m. Koelsch Gallery, 703 Yale covering the floor. St. Wood sculpture, with a twist. Fox, a 2011 graduate of the Fine These sculptures appear to be Arts Program from Houston Bap- everyday objects, until you realtist University, is the curator for ize they are carved out of wood. the Sojourn Studio Residency and Amazing. is best described as an installation Cohen is the founder and manartist using mixed media. She said, ager of First Saturday Arts Market. “In my creative processes my pri- Contact him at ArtValet@gmail. mary tools are paint, pastels, ink, com or visit him on the web at

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Christina Macal, Jennifer Fox, Taylor Brown and Ryan Pennington in Jenn Fox’s studio are part of the Sojourn Studio Residency. (Submitted photo) ArtValet.com. Cottonwood Chili Bowl benefiting Blue Line Bike Lab MS150 Team set for Jan. 25 The second annual Cottonwood Chili Bowl benefiting the Blue Line Bike Lab MS 150 Team is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25. Cottonwood is located at 3422 N. Shepherd at 34th St. Chili teams are invited to sign up for this festive event that attracted over 30 teams and 300 attendees in 2013, raising just over $4,500. The BP MS 150 is the top fundraising ride for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Nationwide; there are 100 Bike MS rides. Team Blue Line has set their highest goal in their four-year history of riding in the MS 150. The team is made up of riders that have friends and family who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis. In addition to $5 tasting bowls, attendees can purchase raffle tickets for a shot at a large and varied selection of items from many local area businesses. For additional details and to sign up your chili team, contact Cottonwood at 713-802-0410, by email atcottonwood.events@gmail.com.

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Page 8A • The Leader • January 18, 2014 • @heightsleader

Montie Beach resident Daniela Garcia is running 100 times more than she was six years ago. “When I started, I couldn’t even run in a quarter mile,” Garcia said. “I’d run in Memorial Park and measure in terms of lightposts. I’d pass three of them and then walk.” Garcia, 40, has come a long way since those early days of training. On Sunday, she’ll run the 26.2mile Chevron Houston Marathon for the third time. Last month, she ran in the Maraton Powerade in Monterrey, Mexico. “I was going to the gym and doing weights,” Garcia said. “It was boring to me, I wanted to be outside. I started out running to be more fit, to try and lose weight. I found out it relaxes my mind and relieves stress.” Garcia joined a running group, Houston Fit, which meets regularly in Memorial Park. She runs four to six miles per day five days per week. “I did my first 5k in 2009 and got hooked after that – I did my first marathon in 2012,” Garcia

Montie Beach resident Daniela Garcia will run in her third Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday. (Photo by Michael Sudhalter) said. Houston Fit does speed work on the Waltrip High track, hill training on Allen Parkway and a Saturday run for distance up to as much as 20 miles. Last year, Garcia finished the Houston Marathon in 5:26 and hopes to eclipse 11 minutes off her finish time this year. She’s learned the importance of pacing herself during the marathon.

“At the beginning, everyone is pumped up with adrenaline,” Garcia said. “If you take off too fast, you’ll be done halfway through.” The marathon’s route has changed, and it will no longer go down Studemont. “It’s kind of sad because they have great cheering in that section,” Garcia said. “(Throughout the marathon), I listen to music and I have my cheering section. My family comes

out along the route. The runners encourage each other, and there are bands along the way.” Garcia said the toughest part of the race is the final stretch that goes by Memorial Park. “You’re just tired,” Garcia said. “You want to finish and have it be over with. Your body is screaming. Those four miles may as well be 40 because you’re so tired.” Garcia was born in Monterrey, Mexico and moved to Houston when she was 6. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Finance and currently works as a travel agent. “I wanted to run my first international marathon in the city where I was born,” Garcia said. “I’m hoping to run the Toronto Marathon next year. I would love to run one marathon in every state, and there’s some I’d want to run in around the world.” When she’s not running around the city, Garcia enjoys her home base in Montie Beach. “I love how everything is getting upgraded,” Garcia said. “My street is getting re-done. I love all of the new restaurants in the area. It feels like a little town inside the city.”

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Athlete Spotlight RHS’ David Villareal by Michael Sudhalter michael@theleadernews.com Reagan High senior David Villareal is a leader in the classroom and on the basketball court. The 18-year-old senior is a third-year member of the Bulldogs’ boys basketball team. He started for half of the season as a junior and became the full-time starter this year.

Last season, he helped Reagan reach the second round of the UIL Class 4A playoffs. Villareal is ranked 11th in a senior class Villareal of 500 students and plans on studying biomedical

science at Texas A&M in the fall on a full academic scholarship. What do you enjoy the most about playing basketball for Reagan? “Definitely, my teammates, and the connection that we have and the way we play on the court. We have kind of a tough love situation. We go hard at practice, but when it comes to the game, they’re the best teammates, bar none.”

J.J. Watt Foundation donates $19,000 to Black Middle School Frank Black Middle School received a generous grant from the Justin J Watt Foundation (JJ Watt from the Houston Texans). The grant was for $19,019.42 and will be used for uniforms and team equipment for the school’s baseball and softball teams. The funds will be used to purchase equipment for the FBMS Baseball and Softball Panthers including uniforms, equipment, training aids, helmets, bats and gloves. A key mission of Frank Black Middle School is to educate the whole child and provide high quality learning and extracurricular opportunities to all of the student body. Frank Black started its baseball program in 2012 and its softball program in 2013. Both teams are popular with the student body and have had success competing in HISD. “The donation from the Justin

Where do you volunteer? “I volunteer mostly at Memorial Hermann Northwest and go to my church, St. Thomas Episcopal, and help with the CCE Church.” How about on campus? “I tutor Math in the mornings. It gives me a sense of pride knowing that I get to help out anyway that I can. One of the things I love to do is helping people -- give them advice in math or anything.”

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for the 2014 season,” said Meilin Jao, Frank Black Middle School Principal. Black MS is very thankful for this support from the JJ Watt Foundation.

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Come and join us for our

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Open House ������������������������� Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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The Justin J. Watt Foundation donated $19,019.42 to the Frank Black Middle School baseball and softball programs.(Photo by Michael Sudhalter) J. Watt Foundation will assure the sustainability of FBMS Baseball and Softball and make quality after school athletic programs more accessible to our kids. We can’t wait to see our teams on the field

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January 18 section a