News

New database gives sheriff national reach

By Lora-Marie Bernard

THE SHERIFF’S office has begun using a new online software database to help deputies conduct nationwide investigations. leads-online-logo
The LeadsOnline website will help investigators track drug dealers and stolen property and share forensic sketches at a cost of about $10,000.
On a more advanced level, the site also tracks associations between suspects and their contacts.
Sheriff Henry Trochesset’s department began using it on November 1 after it was approved during the October 25 meeting of the county commissioners’ court in response to a request he made for funds for the service in September.
The website describes itself as “the link between investigators and missing items or individuals who may turn out to be instrumental in solving
a homicide, finding a meth lab or getting stolen property back to its rightful owner”.
It reports and records the transactions of thousands of scrap-metal processors, secondhand stores, internet drop-off stores and pawn shops across the country. It also provides a central location for critical information from eBay listings.
Essentially, LeadsOnline monitors the transactions that sellers are legally required to file. In some cases, it provides investigators with important details such as thumbprints and personal data.
The database also contains a “meth monitor” to help law-enforcement agencies identify local drug dealers.
According to the website, it gathers sales and transactions covered under the federal Combat Meth act, which limits the sales of over-the-counter products that contain ingredients common to the creation of methamphetamine.
The website enables pharmacies to report the sales of the products online, reducing cumbersome paperwork that pharmacists had been doing previously.

Clark calls on congress to keep Trump on course

By Lora-Marie Bernard

SUPPORTERS of Democratic-party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton might continue to grapple with the idea of a Donald Trump presidency but Galveston County’s elector will be happy to represent the will of local voters.clark, ken cropped
County commissioner Ken Clark serves as the local elector to the electoral college, which ultimately decides who will be the next president. He will travel to Austin on December 19 to cast his vote for president-elect Trump.
“I am excited,” the senior local Republican politician said.
“We’ve got a Republican president-elect that will be in the White House. We are going to have a slow process to turn this ship that has been so far astray for so long.
“It will take time. Nothing will happen overnight. This election is just the start of the process.”
Like other GOP leaders, the precinct-four commissioner is now turning his attention from the presidency to the national congress. Nationwide reports show a lukewarm congressional reception for Trump’s plan for his first 100 days in office.
Clark, above, said voters need to put pressure on their elected officials to make sure the plan is implemented.
“The US people need to keep their representatives and senators accountable so we get the things we were promised in the campaign, like overturning Obamacare [the Affordable Care act], putting reasonable restrictions on immigration and following the law,” he said.
National reports suggest that some Clinton supporters are trying to encourage electors to become “faithless”, voting their own will rather than that of their local electorate.
Electors are not bound to follow the election so faithless ones can muddy the system. However, never in the history of the country have faithless electors changed the outcome of a general election.
Clark said he doesn’t believe that the majority of electors will abandon their pledge. Instead, he believes the electors will honor the popular-voting outcomes.
“This election was a resounding mandate that this is what the people wanted,” he said.
“There are no issues surrounding it, like a hanging chad or something.”

History tells how county has survived health scares

By Lora-Marie Bernard

A DOCUMENT detailing more than a century and a half of the county’s response to disease and infection could become a vital local-government resource after being presented to the county commissioners this week.Barroso, Kathy 2015 web ready
Former county judge Ray Holbrook and county health district chief executive officer Kathy Barroso, left, were among the team that presented the work on Monday after a dedicated cadre of citizens had spent more than three years researching 166 years of the county’s public-health history.
They chronicled an expansive history in what could be described as the county’s very own Doomsday Book. Their efforts follow the county’s health affairs from an outbreak of yellow fever in 1839 to the creation of the current emergency management system in 2005.
The history initiative – started by Mark Guidry, who immediately preceded Barroso as the health district’s chief executive – eventually produced a 68-page document.
It detailed how, when yellow-fever epidemics swept the county in the 1800s, local people had no leadership to help them understand how to protect themselves or how to stop the disease.
While the idea of an uncoordinated government effort to protect the public seems unfathomable today, Holbrook said that was the way of life until World War Two. That was when the county organized the health district.
He told the commissioners he did not think anything that has happened in the past 50 years “was more important and substantial than the creation and work” of the district.
Barroso said the history documents the health initiatives and events that impacted settlers and residents countywide. Guidry had wanted to chronicle public health and a committee worked for three years to accomplish the task, she said.
“The document we are presenting to you today provides a historical perspective of the challenges and changes related to public health in Galveston County from the 1800s to the present day,” she told the meeting.
Some of the more notable events affecting public health that the county has faced in addition to the yellow-fever epidemics from 1839 to 1867 were the 1900 Storm, a typhoid-fever outbreak in 1975, a hydrofluoric-acid leak in 1987 and a measles outbreak in 1989.
As the commissioners thanked the committee for their work during the past three years, precinct-three commissioner Stephen Holmes, the court’s lone Democrat, teased his Republican counterparts about the health district’s budget after reading that the original budget for the district was $13,000 and that today it is $13 million.
“They were all Democrats back then,” he said as the audience laughed. “Now we are mostly Republican. The spending has really gone up.”
Precinct-one commissioner Ryan Dennard said the document will be helpful for future generations.
“This will be a resource not just for the county but for lots of county governments across the county,” he said.
“I’ve certainly found over the last year or two there is not a lot of institutional knowledge about how the health district works, what it does, where it came from and what its role is,” he told Holbrook’s team.
“I think this will be an important piece of resource. Thank you for doing it.”
County judge Mark Henry said the work the health district does usually goes unnoticed.
“They do a great job and one of their unenviable tasks today is to track the zika virus through Galveston County,” he said.
The commissioners approved the acceptance of the history files as part of the meeting’s consent agenda.

Just 48 hours to go to make sure you can vote

By Lora-Marie Bernard

HUNDREDS of voter applications are flooding into the county’s registration office each day as residents race to beat Tuesday’s deadline for November’s general election.
County tax assessor-collector Cheryl Johnson has been receiving mail by the bagful in the past few weeks and estimates that about 18,000 county residents could register to vote before the deadline
“We have not only been receiving them by the hundreds by mail but also from the secretary of state where people register online,” she said.
Johnson, who is unopposed in her bid for re-election on the November 8 ballot, added: “This is such an historic election that we expect to rock ’n’ roll all the way through. My main problem is finding enough people to help.”
She bases her 18,000 estimate on US census reports. Of the total, she said between 12,000 and 15,000 voters need to update their registrations.
“A huge number are in suspense,” she said. “That means the mail has either come back or they have moved and didn’t tell us that they’d moved.”
Johnson said residents needing to verify their voter status should go online to votetexas.gov and select its Frequently Asked Questions section, then the question “Am I registered?”
She said: “Follow the instructions and a list of elections the resident is registered for will appear.”
Voters can visit galcotax.com to update their address information online or to download the address form.  Paper forms are available at all tax-office branches and satellite offices throughout the county. They can be mailed in or dropped into a yellow drop box at each location.
Johnson suggests dropping the information at the branches or offices or the county courthouse as the deadline is only a couple of days away. “That is the best way to ensure a resident can vote in November,” she said. “The mail can be slow.”
Finally, a person can call the voter registration department at 888-976-2280. The department can confirm voter status and mail applications.
“Don’t forget,” Johnson said. “The deadline to register to vote is October 11.”
• Check out “All out to trump each other” to see who’s who in the county’s local elections next month.

By Lora-Marie Bernard

RIVALS in 11 county races are revving up for a showdown in the general election, which is now less than one month away.
While the presidential race has captured voters’ attention, battles for local seats in one federal-government chamber, one state chamber, one district court, two school districts, one city and a navigation district are picking up steam.
There are also uncontested races for seats in both state chambers and two district courts and for several county-government positions, including two commissioner districts.
Among the county officials who will be re-elected unopposed are sheriff Henry Trochesset and
tax assessor-collector Cheryl Johnson, both Republicans, and precinct 3 commissioner Stephen Holmes, a Democrat.
Darrell Apffel, who won the right to represent the Republicans in precinct 1 following the retirement of Ryan Dennard, is also unopposed.
Navigation district No1, which maintains the high-profile Pelican Island bridge at the western end of the port of Galveston, has four challengers for one commissioner seat.
Dennis Byrd, the incumbent, faces photographer Robert Mihovil, businessman Bill Quiroga and real-estate agent Shane McDermott.
Randy Weber, the US house of representatives’ 14th Texas district member, is up for re-election and faces Democrat challenger Michael Cole.
State senator Larry Taylor is not facing an opponent in district 11 but incumbent state representative Wayne Faircloth is having to compete against another member of the Democratic Criss family, having defeated attorney and former judge Susan Criss last time around. Lloyd Criss, a former state representative, will attempt to topple the Republican in district 23. Fellow Democrat Craig Eiland retired from the district in 2014.
Meanwhile, League City sports three city-council campaigns, making it the city with the most contested races in the county. With former city councilmembers Heidi Hansing and Geri Bentley moving out of their seats, the battleground is wide open.
Three contenders – Brian Brown, Brenton Spry and Larry Millican – have emerged for Hansing’s position-three seat, while Greg Gripon and Deborah Drury are competing for Bentley’s position-five seat. Bentley, a founder of League City Tea Party, has endorsed Drury to replace her.
In the city’s final race, position-four incumbent Todd Kinsey faces Rudy Salcedo.
On the island, the Galveston independent school district board’s district 2B incumbent trustee, David O’Neal, faces challenger Robert White.
Back on the mainland, Santa Fe ISD has challengers for positions one and two. John Snider faces Christy Lala in the fomer, while Patrick Kelly faces Jody Davis and Lori Lala in the latter.
Voters will also cast ballots on proposition one, which requests the issuance of $34,565,000 in school building bonds.

Who’s who in next month’s county election races

The county’s contested local election races

Federal representative, Texas district 14
(Galveston and Jefferson
counties and parts of Brazoria and Chambers counties)
Randy Weber (R)
Michael Cole (D)

State representative, district 23
(Chambers and parts of Galveston counties)
Wayne Faircloth (R)
Lloyd Criss (D)

District judge, 10th judicial district
Kerry Neves (R)
Cornel Walker (D)

League City, city council
position 3
Brian Brown
Brenton Spry
Larry Millican

League City, city council
position 4
Todd Kinsey
Rudy Salcedo

League City, city council
position 5
Greg Gripon
Deborah Drury

Galveston ISD trustee,
district 2B
David O’Neal
Robert White

Santa Fe ISD trustee,
position 1
John Snider
Christy Lala

Santa Fe ISD trustee,
position 2
Patrick Kelly
Jody (Jonathan) Davis
Lori Lala

Santa Fe ISD trustee,
position 7
Wayne Logan
Jessica Hagewood

Galveston County navigation district, commissioner 1
Robert Mihovil
Dennis Byrd
Bill Quiroga
Shane McDermott

The county’s uncontested local election races

State senator, district 11
(parts of Brazoria, Galveston and Harris counties)
Larry Taylor (R)

State representative, district 24
(parts of Galveston County)
Greg Bonnen (R)

District judge, 56th judicial district
Lonnie Cox (R)

District judge, 405th judicial district
Michelle Slaughter (R)

County sheriff
Henry Trochesset (R)

County tax assessor-collector
Cheryl Johnson (R)

County commissioner,
precinct 1
Darrell Apffel (R)

County commissioner,
precinct 3
Stephen Holmes (D)

Justice of the peace, precinct 4
Kathleen McCumber (R)

Constable, precinct 1
Rick Sharp (R)

Constable, precinct 2
Jimmy Fullen (R)

Constable, precinct 3
Derreck Rose (D)
Constable, precinct 4
Jerry Fisher (R)

Galveston ISD trustee,
district 7B
(Election cancelled)
Ken Jencks

Santa Fe ISD trustee,
position 3
Eric Davenport