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Lora-Marie Bernard

By Lora-Marie Bernard



The Board of Trustees for the Clear Creek Independent School District has announced nominations for its 2017 Citizen of the Year.
“The success of a school district and its students does not lie solely in the hands of great teachers and administrators, but also in the steadfast support of its community,” trustees said in a press release. “In the Clear Creek Independent School District, dedicated community members volunteer their time and efforts by contributing to the quality of life for our schools and the growing number of students within the District.”
Each year board trustees ask stakeholders to nominate community members who champion the district and deserve to be recognized for it. The award is given each year to honor an outstanding community member for their support of CCISD programs and activities.
Former recipients include Joyce Abbey, Harv Hartman, Robert Davee, David Braun, Dr. James O’Malley, Gib Larson, and Lucien Q. Junkin.
Persons who receive the award are able to point endowment funds from the school’s foundation to select projects. Trustees established the Citizen of the Year endowment allows recipients to direct funds to academic or classroom activities in his or her name.
The recipient will be announced at the Clear Creek Education Foundation’s Annual Awards Gala on Nov. at South Shore Harbour Resort & Conference Center in League City.

The criteria for selection follows:
Demonstrated a commitment to Clear Creek ISD through volunteer efforts
Contributed significantly in ways that have benefited the entirety of Clear Creek ISD
Maintained a reputation across the Clear Creek ISD community as an individual with high standards and dedication to excellence in public education
Voluntarily served the district and its students and patrons over an extended period of time

The nomination deadline is Aug. 1 for the 2017 award. Forms are available online on the Foundation’s website and the District website. Nominations can be emailed to Krichardson@clearcreekeducationfoundation.org, or can be mailed to: Clear Creek Education Foundation, Citizen of the Year Selection Committee, P.O. Box 1631,
League City, TX 77574

By Lora-Marie Bernard

League City will issue more than $16 million in bonds to fund a myriad of capital improvement projects in the city.
Mayor Pat Hallisey lauded the projects and said they were important to the city’s future. The League City City Council approved the funds during a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.
“This is a community that’s growing by leaps and bounds, one thousand homes per year,” Hallisey said. “There’s not a person in town who doesn’t understand the need for transportation improvements, being able to be mobile around town, getting roads that connect.”
Resident Brian Brown said the council should show fiscal restraint even though the city’s new bond rating made it cheaper to borrow money.  He ran for a council position last year on a platform of fiscal conservatism.
He said homeowners received “sticker shock” when they received the latest county assessments.  Some properties rose by as much as 12.7 percent and they didn’t expect it.
“If we don’t need to borrow it, don’t borrow it,” he said “Only borrow what we need. Just because we can borrow doesn’t mean we should.
Councilmember Nick Long echoed Brown. Long said he wanted to know if the city still intended to reduce its overall total debt in the next fiscal year. Finance Director Rebecca Underhill said the city would and the lowest bid for bond service on the $16 million was a 2.7 percent interest rate.
About $5 million in tax supported projects are included in that amount. They include the Ervin/Hobbs Connector street project, the Animal Adoption Center, Public Safety Annex Station 6 and items related to the Downtown Revitalization Plan.
Also on the table are revenue-supported projects that include a new well and generator at South Shore Boulevard, improvements to the Southeast Service Area Trunk lines, the North Service Area 16-inch waterline along Grissom, the Dallas Salmon Effluent Discharge Improvements, annual sanitary sewer rehab projects, annual lift station improvements and Countryside No. 1 Lift Station improvements.

By Lora-Marie Bernard

Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded the City of League City’s bond rating from Aa2 to Aa1, the second highest rating on the Moody’s scale.
“This important achievement could not have been realized without the commitment of the City Council to maintain the highest standards for financial operations,” said Rebecca Underhill, Assistant City Manager.
According to the Moody’s Investor Service press release, the upgrade to Aa1 reflects the rapidly growing tax base supported by a stable economic profile, and a consistent history of favorable financial management evident by ample reserves. Additional considerations include the city’s debt profile which remains affordable, despite being higher than peers.
In fact, League City will sell $17,025,000 in bonds next week and the press release states it is unusual for Moody’s to upgrade a rating in the midst of a sizeable outstanding debt. It maintains a $227 million in general obligation limited bonds.
However, several factors can cause a higher rating. Some of those factors include: Substantial reduction of debt burden; a significant tax base expansion and a considerable improvement of reserves.
By contrast, factors that can lead to a downgrade include: increase in debt burden without corresponding tax base growth; substantial depletion of reserves or a material weakening of formal financial policies; sustained, multi-year assessed value contractions or the status of its legal security.
For example, last year, Moody downgraded the City of Houston’s rating to Aa3 and stated that the weakening economic and financial performance that it blamed on the prolonged dive in oil prices. It also reflected the city’s high fixed costs, large unfunded pension liabilities (among the highest in the nation), as well as property tax caps.
This rating was given before the state approved the city’s pension reform measures.

By Lora-Marie Bernard

During the final hours of the 85th Legislative Session, both the state House and Senate approved House Bill 2445 expands opportunities for League City’s economic development and tourism efforts.
HB 2445 allows League City to pledge the state’s portion of the hotel occupancy tax, sales tax, and qualifying mixed alcoholic beverage taxes to the construction of a myriad of projects that have been on the city’s table. For example, the funds can be used to create a convention center and entertainment-related facilities for it. They could be used to bolster hotel infrastructure and build ancillary facilities such as restaurants and retail.
State Representatives Greg Bonnen and Wayne Faircloth, State Rep. Dennis Paul and Sen. Larry Taylor were critical to the bills success, said Scott Livingston, Director of Economic Development for League City.
“This proposed bill will equip League City with a new tool to stimulate tourism and economic development that will improve the quality of life for our citizens and the tourism experience for our visitors,” Livingston said.
He also said Scott Joslove, president of the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association, and his staff was also important. He said they advised the city and testified in favor of the bill before the House Ways and Means Committee.
Mayor Pat Hallisey, Councilman Nick Long, City Manager John Baumgartner, City Attorney Nghiem Doan, and Livingston also testified before the committee in April.
The measure falls in line with the city’s formal legislative agenda which included two priorities. First, the city would support legislation that advanced home rule authority and local council control of city interests. Second, the city would support legislation that rebated state taxes to support the construction of a convention center in League City.
HB 2445 will become state law upon Governor Greg Abbot’s signature.

Beautiful Gardens by William Johnson

While gardeners love flowers for the beauty they provide to the home landscape, few gardeners grow flowers for eating. That’s a shame because many flowers, in addition to being edible, bring lively flavors, colors, and textures to salads, soups, casseroles, and other dishes.
Eating flowers is not as exotic as it sounds. The use of flowers as food dates back to Roman times, and to the Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures. Edible flowers were especially popular in the Victorian era during Queen Victoria’s reign. So, just what are the guidelines for munching on flowers?
There are some basic guidelines when it comes to edible flowers. Much of this information is pure common sense, but it’s important to be mindful when venturing into new gastronomic pursuits. Many of us do not have a family connection of an experienced “elder” to tell us which flowers might be safely edible, so it’s good to review some basics.
It’s important to be cautious. If you have allergy issues or a compromised immune system, it’s best to skip these adventures with edible flowers unless you have total control over their production. Identify the flower exactly and eat only the edible parts of those flowers. Tulip flowers, for instance, can be eaten, but only the petals. If the taste of any flower is objectionable—too bitter, too sour, too spicy, or just plain weird—don’t swallow it. Flowers can vary in edibility depending on the time of year. Once you have established that a flower is safely edible, experiment with its flavor and texture at different times of the year.
Toxicity is a major concern. Some ornamental plants are distinctly poisonous though beautiful, including several adorning gardens at this time of year: bleeding hearts, lily-of-the valley and oleander. Even though a lovely daffodil may seem to be just the thing to top a birthday cake, stay away from using those. Other beauties to avoid eating include hydrangea and Texas mountain laurel.  Be sure flowers are free of pesticides. Regulations for how to use pesticides on food crops differ from regulations for ornamental crops. Be sure that the rose or pansy flower you have your eye on has not been treated with any pesticides which are illegal to be used on a food crop.
Roses, for example, are sometimes treated with a systemic insecticide that is applied to the soil. This should not be regarded as safe for human consumption due to the use of a systemic insecticide that can be present in most or all parts of a plant for several weeks after application.
When choosing flowers for edibility, look for those grown safely. Don’t pluck a flower at random from an unfamiliar location or make the assumption that flowers in florist displays are edible. In most cases, the petals are the palatable part of the flowers listed as “edible.” Remove the stamens and pistil from larger flowers such as daylilies (the stamens are covered with pollen, which may aggravate allergies). Reliably edible flowers include calendulas, dandelions, geraniums, nasturiums, pansies, roses, squash blossoms, and sweet violets. This is only a partial list of edible flowers.
One flower that is particularly abundant in many area landscapes is the daylily. While the daylily nowadays is considered a delicacy by wild food gatherers and knowledgeable chefs, it has a long history in Chinese cuisine in addition to Chinese medicine.
Daylily flowers can be used in a variety of ways. They add sweetness to soups and vegetable dishes. Flowers that are half opened or fully opened may be dipped in a light batter of flour and water and fried in a wok. You can add the petals to egg dishes and salads. Dried daylily petals, called “golden needles” by the Chinese, are an ingredient in many Chinese recipes, including hot-and-sour soup.
Some food preparers have suggested that varieties with pale yellow or orange flowers produce the sweetest, most delectable taste. However, it appears that daylily taste is related to daylily   cultivar more than flower color according to serious taste trials.
Eating flowers is not a weird or unusual gastronomic endeavor. If you like broccoli or cauliflower or artichoke, then you are already a flower connoisseur since a head of broccoli or cauliflower is composed of a few hundred unopened flowers! The general rule is that the flowers of most herbs and vegetables are safe to eat (with flowers of tomato, potato, eggplant and pepper being notable exceptions). Always check first, because as with anything in life, there will always be exceptions.
The guidelines provided here are definitely related to a common sense approach to selecting other types of flowers as food. Adding flower petals to a salad or garnishing a stack of pancakes with a small rose can be fun and effective, but it’s necessary to become informed before ingesting your floral creations.

William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit his website at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm.