Houstonian Corner V15-I22

HPD Honors Siddiqi: Officer of the Year

Hard work pays, not just once but again and again. Officer Muzaffar Siddiqi, one of the most decorate police officers in Texas, has been honored yet again for his services to the community and the Houston Police Department.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker and HPD Chief Charles McClelland presented Officer Siddiqi with “Officer of the Year” award on May 13 at the Hyatt Regency Downtown, 1200 Louisiana, during an awards ceremony organized as part of the Police Week from Friday, May 10, through Friday, May 17.

Officer Siddiqi has been honored several times in the past for exceptional services. He is the only Muslim police officer of Pakistani descent to have received so many awards. His dedication to work and high professional standards have distinguished him as one of the best known police officer in the South Asian community.

He has earned plaudits in the community and has made the community proud by taking the initiative to rebuild the bridges in the aftermath of 9/11.

Officer Siddiqi has also received the Top Cop award by International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Parade Magazine in 2003. The award symbolizes the highest level of achievement among police officers in the country.

His previous honors include Officer of the year Award in 2000 by Houston Police Department, U.S. Congressional Recognition, Texas Law Enforcement Achievement Award by Governor Rick Perry, Four Chief Commendations by Houston Police Chief C.O. Bradford, Officer Of the Month Award from American Society of Industrial Security and the Bravo Award by Houston Mayor Lee Brown.
Water needs take center stage in legislative budget battle

Some fearful of consequences if funds not appropriated immediately by legislature

As the state budget drama continues at the Texas State Capitol today, concern is mounting over the fate of billions of dollars in the state’s rainy day fund that may – or may not – be appropriated for the state’s water needs. Lawmakers initially were considering moving $2 billion from that fund to help initiate a fund to assist with much-needed water projects statewide.
But, the legislative session ends in 10 days and a source close to the issue said today that there is now concern that instead of legislators making that appropriation from the rainy day fund, they could instead put the issue before Texas voters to decide.

With Texas enduring almost three years of drought conditions, water issues are front and center in many parts of the state. However, some areas that were suffering from drought conditions are beginning to recover, thanks to cooler temperatures and some heavy rainfall. Those areas could come out of drought conditions and might then see investing $2 billion of taxpayer funds for assistance in other areas of the state as an issue on which they would vote “no.”

Convincing voters in those areas of the state to vote for using rainy day funds will be a hard sell, and negative results could be disastrous.

\“We need to make sure we’re planning appropriately,” said Bryan Shaw, chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in an agency video regarding drought conditions in Texas. “Getting ahead of the drought is critical. It’s kinda’ the same thing (as) with managing our finances. By the time that there’s no money in the bank, it’s a little late then to start thinking about saving money.”

So just how severe is the water problem for communities throughout the state? According to figures from TCEQ, as of this week, eight public water systems are at emergency priority, and could be out of water in 45 days or less. Customers of those systems already are facing restrictions from mild to severe. Another 10 could be out of water in 90 days or less. And a dozen more face the possibility of being out of water within 180 days or less.

If funding is not made available through the rainy day fund, our insider said the state could have to “triage” critical water projects throughout the state, funding projects by priority when funding is available.

Waiting in the wings to help bring the billions of dollars’ worth of much-needed water infrastructure are design firms and capital firms with experience nationwide in dealing with water projects, eager to partner with the government on these projects. If funding is not made available immediately, he said, these potential partners will exit Texas and seek to invest their millions of dollars in capital into water infrastructure projects in other states.

Thus, the critical water needs in Texas are dependent on money being available now.

The state has had a water planning process in place since the late 1990s, but the plan has never been fully implemented, mostly due to lack of funding. Estimates are that if the plan is not funded, by 2060, half of the residents of the state will not have enough water during certain drought conditions. The economic impact on the state could be $116 billion annually to Texas businesses and workers. An estimated 1 million jobs could be lost.

One water organization in the state, H204TEXAS, estimates that the latest plan, Water for Texas 2012, could begin to turn around the state’s water woes at this critical juncture. That organization says that every $1 billion in financial assistance provided for state water plan projects will generate $1.75 billion in sales revenue, create $888.8 million in state gross domestic product, add $43.9 million in state and local tax receipts and create or support more than 13,000 jobs statewide.

Not to be forgotten is that the water issue in Texas is not just a water-from-the-tap problem. Recent drought conditions prompted unprecedented wildfires in many areas of the state, where in 2011 drought conditions, more than 3.9 million acres of land in Texas burned, nearly doubling the previous record. Damage was particularly heavy in the Bastrop area, where two people were killed and more than 1,600 homes burned. The area is in recovery mode, but if the drought persists, there is the constant fear of more fires.

“My fear is, the further we get away from any disaster – even as little as a year – the more we forget about that disaster. We’re still in a drought,” said Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management in the TCEQ video.

Add to that the proposed reorganization of the Texas Water Development Board, which our insider says is likely to be “top to bottom,” and the need for the legislature to take control of the appropriation process for water funding is even more urgent.


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