Category Archives: Irving

Walk Like MADD event remembers fallen officer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three thousand citizens from across the Metroplex traveled to Main Street Garden Park in Dallas to take part in the 11th annual Walk Like Madd 5K on April 27th. Organized by Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the walk raised $6,500 – $2,500 over their goal – in remembrance of Irving Police Department (IPD) Officer Glenn Homs, killed in the line of duty by a drunk driver.

On July 3, 1993 Officer Homs was on his way home when he stopped to help a woman whose vehicle collided with a cow near Highway 114 and Belt Line Rd. As Homs set up a flare line around the woman’s vehicle, a drunk driver crashed through the flare line, slamming into Homs.

Since then, Homs’ story has been a clarion call to citizens in North Texas who have turned out in overwhelming support over the past decade to celebrate his life and do their part to make sure a tragedy like his death does not happens again. IPD took special pains to remember their fallen brother and not only had the largest police representation at this year’s Walk Like MADD, winning the award for most supportive law enforcement team, but the department is currently running in 3rd place on the MADD website for funds raised for this area.

“Texas leads the nation in alcohol related fatal accidents. Our fatality rate in Texas fluctuates between 47 percent and 50 percent of accidents that involve alcohol, with a national average for the United States somewhere between 31 percent and 38 percent. There’s a spot where we’re No. 1 that we don’t want to be No. 1,” said IPD DWI Investigator, Officer Steve Burres.

IPD considers drunk driving a high priority and employs a specialized unit tasked with stopping drunk drivers on the road before they become a serious threat.

“We have a five man full time DWI unit, all of our officers are certified as drug recognition experts, and two of them are crash reconstruction investigators,” Burres said. “We work at night from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. during the peak, where you’ll have your early happy hours when people get off work and when the bars close at 2 o’clock. [We are] doing proactive enforcement trying to find drunk drivers before they turn into an alcohol related crash.”

Some information provided by the City of Irving.

Irving Heritage Society wins silver award in competition

The Irving Heritage Society has been presented a silver award in the 34th annual Mitchell A. Wilder Publication Design Awards Competition by the Texas Association of Museums. Created to recognize achievement in graphic design and media production and to encourage quality in public presentations, the Wilder Design Competition drew 36 entries from Museums of all sizes, regions and disciplines throughout the state of Texas.

The Irving Heritage Society entered a video presentation of a dramatization of a tour of the Irving Heritage House titled Irving Heritage House, A House With A History. This was produced in conjunction with Irving Community Television Network in honor of the 2012 100th anniversary of the Heritage House, a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark.

On hand to accept the award during the April Texas Association of Museums conference were Heritage Society members Dwane Crain, Shirley Chowritmooroo, Mary Higbie, Wilder competition coordinator Lacie Ballinger, and Kevin Kendro.

Source: Irving Heritage Society

KIB, North Lake students join to clean up Rodeo Park

kib park smRodeo Park in Irving’s Valley Ranch neighborhood looks much brighter and more inviting now, thanks to the efforts of several North Lake College students who are working with Keep Irving Beautiful (KIB) in their Service Learning Program. The group of five gave a total of fifteen hours by painting the pavilion at the park on April 12. KIB collaborated with the City of Irving Parks Department, which identified an area that needed attention and supplied the paint and supplies for the project. The result of this partnership is a bright shiny blue pavilion that now welcomes visitors to the picnic area.

Student Julio Chavez reflected on what a project like this means to him.

“It’s great to get involved in something where you are giving your time to the community and also getting credit in your classes,” Chavez said. “It makes me feel good to know that these kids we saw playing in the park today will enjoy the results of our work for a long time to come.”

KIB has been a participating agency in North Lake College Service Learning since 2008, and hundreds of students have gone through the program. They donate their time with a non-profit organization such as KIB, and receive credit from participating instructors in various courses. Many of these students have enjoyed the experience so much that they have been inspired to continue volunteering even after they complete their schooling.

“We had a great group of students here on a beautiful spring day, and we couldn’t be happier with the results,” said KIB Board Member and North Lake instructor Dr. Yolanda Romero. “Several local residents walked up to tell them how nice the pavilion looked and how much they appreciated their efforts. As always, KIB would like to thank John Page of the Parks Department and his staff for their assistance, as well as the North Lake students, who were outstanding.”

Source: Keep Irving Beautiful

Lions Club seeks children for camps

Each year the Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville opens its doors for the summer to children that typically cannot go to camp. Children with physical disabilities, diabetes or Down syndrome are welcomed by camp staff for a week of fun, games and education.

The camp is free of charge, paid for by Lions Clubs in Texas.

The Irving and Coppell Lions Clubs are looking to sponsor children interested in attending the week-long camp.

“We’re looking for kids that are affected by these disabilities so that we might help them enjoy a fun week at the camp,” Coppell Lions Club president Bill Smothermon said.

Texas Lions Camp is a residential camping facility for children with physical disabilities, type 1 diabetes and cancer. The camp is located on more than 500 acres in Texas hill country and is designed to introduce a “can do” philosophy.

There are nine one-week sessions during the summer, of which children ages 7 to 16 apply to attend their respective camp sessions based on their type of special need. Parents of these children should apply and have a Lions Club member sign the application after a review of their situation.

Camps for physical disabilities begin in early June and include those children with disabilities such as amputation, cerebral palsy, polio, asthma, lupus, rickets, deaf­ness/hearing impairment, muscular dystro­phy, scoliosis, burns, epilepsy, sickle cell, blindness/vision impairment, heart conditions, partial paralysis, stroke, cancer/tumor, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injury and other similar disabilities.

The facility hosts two type 1 diabetes camps in late July and early August Kids participating will not only have recreational fun, but also learn more about their condition from doctors, nurses and health-related professionals. In July, there are two one-week sessions for Down syndrome children and those kids affected by burns or cancer.

“If you go to one of these camps and see what these kids are doing and how much fun they have, you’d just be amazed,” Irving Noonday Lions Club President Sam Scott said. “The camp is full of trained professionals to help the kids understand their situation medically, and the rest of the trained staff is there to make sure they have the most enjoyable experience of their summer.”

To find out more about the camp, visit the Texas Lions Camp website at www.lionscamp.com. Request a local Lion to follow up with you. For more information, contact irvingnoonday@gmail.com, or call 214-641-5757.

Source: Lions Club

Irving trivia winners named for 2013

trivia winners smThe final rounds of the 6th Annual Irving Trivia on April 20 found four strong teams competing for the honor of hosting the Irving Trivia trophy for a year.

The final teams included last year’s champions the Henry Holmes Breakfast Forum, the Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Irving Museum Advisory Board. The teams bowed to the new champions of the La Cima Heritage Committee, represented by Patty Landers Caperton, Anne Pfaff, Janice Carroll, and Tom Caperton as a last minute substitute for team member Virginia Meler. A record number of tie breaker questions were required to determine the winning team.

The Celebrating Irving: The City and The Man month long celebration was presented by the Irving Heritage Society, the Irving Independent School District, the Irving Public Library and the Irving Black Arts Council. This program was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was funded in part by the City of Irving through the Irving Arts Board.

Source: Irving Heritage Society

Police explorers clean house at competition

By Nick Kammerer

The Irving Police Explorers proudly brought home a first place victory from a regional competition on April 20.

Fifty teams from municipal, state and federal law enforcement agencies attended an annual law enforcement competition in Harris County. The event consisted of individual and team scenarios including felony and misdemeanor traffic stops, DWI’s, domestic disturbance, and other various crime situations.

Two teams from Irving competed in the event, testing their knowledge of state law and police procedures.

Explorers Julia Durham, Edgar Pena, Luke Dillier, and Courtney Cline won first and third place trophies in accident investigation and arrest search and seizure scenarios. The second team: Nick Kammerer, Shayna Richardson, Lucy Sanchez, and Jose Longoria took first and third place in active shooter and DWI scenarios. Because of their performance, the Irving Explorers won first place overall for the Harris County competition.

The Irving Police Explorer program
was established in 1974 and is designed for young adults to explore the field of law enforcement. Explorers have the privilege of competing in local, state, and national law enforcement competitions and riding along with Irving police officers. The Explorers also participate in numerous community service activities including National Night Out and Drug Awareness programs for Irving I.S.D. students.

“I couldn’t have been more proud of the way my teams performed. They showed great maturity and teamwork,” said Officer Curtis Kaloi, the lead advisor for the Irving Police Explorers.

The Irving Police Explorers are currently training for the State Explorer Competition in July; a multi-day event hosted by State and Federal law enforcement agencies.

Adaptive skating welcomes new generation of athletes

Roughly 150 amputees and wheelchair-bound skaters suited up at Lively Pointe Skate Park where Irving-based RISE Adaptive Sports teamed up with Life Rolls On to host the 2nd annual They Will Skate Again in Irving on April 25. A combination of recreational and competitive skating, They Will Skate Again helps disabled athletes hone their skills as peers and professional skaters challenge them to be better athletes and more active members of their community.

“It’s a challenge. People face their fears; people overcome their fears. If they can do that here, they can relay that into others things in their life out in the community,” said Chris Goad, RISE Adaptive Sports’ Executive Director.

They Will Skate Again is not just a form of therapy, however. Opportunities are emerging in the world of sports for the very specific skill sets these unique athletes possess.

Christaan “Otter” Bailey made a name for himself internationally as a professional surfer and semi-pro skater in California, Africa and South America. After fracturing his vertebrae in a 2006 skateboarding accident that left him wheelchair-bound, he continues to be a viable competitor.

“This is one of the few sports – it’s a new and emerging sport – where they can come to a skate park where they’re on wheels and the other kids are on wheels, whether it’s a BMX or a skateboard or a scooter. It equalizes the playing field and it gives them a lot of confidence and independence,” Bailey said. “You’ve got to figure in their everyday lives, they’re usually the odd one out because they’re in a wheelchair, but to come out here and see other kids in chairs too and each one of them have their own issues and levels of ability, but they push each other and it’s a really healthy thing especially for a skate park scenario.”

Jon Comer is the first amputee to become a professional skateboarder. He lost part of his right leg when he was 7 years old and has been skating competitively since he was 13.

“When I was a kid, it never occurred to me [that I was at a disadvantage], and I just got used to it …. There weren’t any other kids like me around, so it was what I had to do. Plus, I won all the time, so I didn’t feel like it was that bad,” Comer said.

From the youngest skater, 18 month old Abel Rose who was completely comfortable in the chair and only needed someone to push him to the top of the ramp, to senior citizens, each participant had a story and unique goals.

Abel’s mother, Heather Rose, was ecstatic that opportunities like this exist for her son, who is at an age when other youngsters are getting ready to start toddler sports.

“He doesn’t have very much interest in children who aren’t in chairs, so getting him around other kids in wheelchairs, it just brings out a whole other side of him,” Heather said.

Five years ago, 10 year old Blake LaPointe’s spinal cord was severed in a car accident. Since then his uncle Joey has taken the whole family on numerous vacations from their home in Lake Charles, LA to places all around the United States so Blake can participate in various activities.

“It’s easy for the regular kids to get out and go play softball like one of my daughters does, but he’s limited where we come from because there aren’t a lot of activities for people like him,” Joey said.

“Hopefully he’ll start to learn that he’s not limited to anything, that’s there’s plenty for him to do – keeps his hopes up a little bit – because he’s the only one in our area. He’s got other friends who are in wheelchairs, but it’s not so much for a physical impairment. We want to let him see that … life does continue outside of that chair.”

Intense and genuine, Adam Williamson is the model for extreme sports enthusiasts in their late 20’s, except that he is in a wheelchair.

“At heart I’m an adrenaline junkie, so I like to do anything that deals with the blood flowing, the heart beating, so this is right up my alley,” Williamson said. “I’ve never had an opportunity to skate before and have always wanted to but didn’t know how, so this gives me an opportunity to come out and try something new.”

Jess Paniszczyn contributed to this article.

IISD School Board votes to censure one of its own

In another narrow vote, trustee Steven Jones, accused of interfering in day-to-day district operations, was censured at an April 1 Irving Independent School Board meeting.

The board voted 4-3 for the censure. Board President Ronda Huffstetler and trustees Valerie Jones, Jerry Christian and Gwen Craig voted in favor and trustees Steven Jones, Larry Stipes and Gail Condor Wells voted against.

“I have done exactly what I said I would do during my campaign,” Steven said. “These attempts to assassinate my character with baseless allegations will not deter my determination in keeping a stronghold on administrative spending and increasing student achievement.”

There are no legal consequences associated with the vote.

The resolution brought by Huffstetler and Valerie Jones said Steven Jones violated the board’s policy and ethics code. Huffstetler is also working to ask the Texas Education Agency to look into Jones’ actions.

“Our role is to govern and to set policy and hold the superintendent accountable,” Valerie Jones said. “Our role is not to manage or run the school district.

“I have become increasingly frustrated watching ego and agenda be put before our children,” she added. “Children are no longer coming first when board members attempt to wrest control from the superintendent.”

According to the resolution, Jones has engaged in micromanagement of administrative matters … threaten(ed) to terminate the employment contracts of several administrative employees, call(ed) newly hired employees, attempt(ed) to influence the decisions of the ad-ministration and has made disparaging comments to staff.

The resolution also said that Jones told administrative staff to forbid staff from speaking Spanish in schools.

According to emails, newly hired district employees contacted Superintendent Dana Bedden to relay phone calls they had received from Jones about their roles. Other e-mails say Jones made “hostile” calls to WIN, a college and workforce readiness system.

Jones, however, said that while he did make the phone calls, the “distorted” emails to Bedden were written in cooperation with those board members who dislike him.

The board has been divided leading up to May’s election. In March, Norma Gonzales, who has said she is not confident in the current administration, is running unopposed for a position on the school board.

With Gonzales’ support, the board could form a majority of trustees who are critical of the district’s leadership and direction.

“We will have a conservative majority on this board beginning May 20,” Steven said. “The new board will be focused like a laser beam on achievement. Our focus will no longer be PR and spin.

“Each student in the Irving school district should have the opportunity to succeed at her and his highest potential,” he added.

Gonzalez will remain in City Manager job through Oct. 1

After months of debate and controversy, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez will remain the City’s top leader– at least for a few more months. The Council voted 5-3 on April 4 for a contract extension through Oct. 1 after spending about an hour in closed executive session to discuss the employment contract, which was set to expire on May 1.

Council members Michael Gallaway, Roy Santoscoy, Thomas Spink, Rose Cannaday and Gerald Farris voted for the contract extension. Mayor Beth Van Duyne and council members Joe Putnam and Brad LaMorgese voted against. Dennis Webb was absent.

The extension will keep Gonzalez at the City’s top post until Oct. 1, and then he will stay on until Dec. 31 as a transitional consultant to an Interim City Manager. He will then be paid for accrued vacation, his $60,000 retention pay for this year and a 2009 housing loan he had will be forgiven. If he resigns before the contract ends, the contract will terminate.

City staff said at the meeting that Gonzalez approved the agreement.

It’s been difficult because Irving was in a stagnant place, and at that time, that council went out and hired Tommy Gonzalez,” Cannaday said. “He’s moved the City forward in giant steps and for that I’m very thankful.

This contract felt fair,” she added. “It’s the type of thing that will give him time to transition.” However, Spink, who opposed the resolution, said the Council was making a mistake.

He has done one hell of a job putting this City together,” Putnam said. “I truly respect this man. He’s going to be hired within 60 days by some city who knows what moving forward is all about.”

The Council’s decision ultimately provides for a change to different City leadership and also answers rumors that the Council was going to spend about $500,000 to buy Gonzalez out of his contract.

Discussion about the employment agreement started months ago as the Council eyed the May 1 expiration on Gonzalez’ contract.

In late January, the Council listened to about an hour of public comment about the contract. Some credited Gonzalez for saving the City millions of dollars, while others criticized his leadership. New contract negotiations then turned into a discussion about severance, according to Van Duyne.

Van Duyne pushed for a professional attorney to put together a new contract and bring a recommendation to the Council. While the City Council approved hiring the attorney, the firm was never engaged.

At Thursday’s meeting, Van Duyne said the extension sent “the wrong message” to developers looking to invest in Irving.

Gonzalez’ base salary is about $246,000, according to City documents. He receives another $66,000 in insurance, vacation and other benefits. He also is paid $7,800 in incentive pay, which is available to other City employees through avenues such as a sick leave buyback program.

He is paid about $67,000 in contributions and about $40,000 for housing. Finally, he is eligible for performance retention pay, which this year is about $60,000.

Gonzalez’ contract started in 2008. He has a Master’s degree in public administration from Texas Tech University and a Bachelor’s degree in government from Eastern New Mexico University.

He worked as an Assistant City Manager for the City of Dallas and for the City of Lubbock. He was also the City Manager of Harlingen, TX.

The City Council can hire a search firm for a new city manager after June 30, according to the resolution.

Training helps first responders prepare for the unthinkable

Photo by John Starkey
Gunshots and simulated explosions bring first responders to Bowie Middle school where volunteers portray the roles of wounded bystanders and teachers. / Photo by John Starkey

Screams and gunfire could be heard within the halls of Bowie Middle School. As first responders arrived, a bomb went off on the east side of the school, ‘killing’ one of the gunmen. And so the morning began with the school in lockdown as a worse-case scenario played out involving gunmen, hostages, police, fire, the Irving ISD and the City’s Office of Emergency Management on March 29.

“In doing this, we see what we are doing well and where the gaps are, so we can train towards the gaps,” said Pat Lamb, Director of School Safety and Operations for Irving ISD. “This is very important. We are continuously talking about response to emergencies. We have an excellent relationship between the police department and the fire department. In the spirit of collaboration, this is designed to prepare us for what might happen in the future.

The Board of Trustees recently tabled a proposal that would have allowed Irving ISD staff members to keep weapons in their parked vehicles for protection in case of emergency.

“This kind of exercise puts it in perspective that when there is such a dangerous scenario, the only thing we want our staff doing is pulling kids into classrooms, turning lights off, and getting out of the line of sight, line of fire. They don’t need weapons in a scenario like this. We want to know when the police department arrives they are the only good guys with weapons.”