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Posted by kaori 03/16/2009 @ 01:12

Tags : houston, cities and towns, texas, states, us

News headlines
MLB: Cincinnati 6, Houston 1 - United Press International
CINCINNATI, May 27 (UPI) -- Jay Bruce's two home runs and four RBI backed up a complete-game effort from Bronson Arroyo Wednesday and brought Cincinnati a 6-1 win over Houston. Arroyo (7-3) went the distance for just the seventh time in his 10-year...
Houston woman sentenced on false hurricane claims - The Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston woman who fraudulently claimed she had homes damaged by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison. Acting US Attorney Tim Johnson says Phyllis Ann Taylor's sentence is one of the longest...
Source: Houston Police Department - Houston Chronicle
Gary Elkins, R-Houston, sponsored the amendment. The cities of Amarillo, Arlington, Baytown, Fort Worth and Irving all took similar steps to extend their programs, in some cases continuing them for an additional 15 to 20 years....
Storm-plagued Houston schools end year - Houston Chronicle
The school year — filled with one disaster after another — ends this week for 200000 Houston Independent School District students. Gulf Coast students have missed days — and, in some cases, weeks _of school, because of the Hurricanes Dolly and Ike,...
Postseason NBA Schedule - The Associated Press
Houston Saturday, April 18 Houston 108, Portland 81 Tuesday, April 21 Portland 107, Houston 103 Friday, April 24 Houston 86, Portland 83 Sunday, April 26 Houston 89, Portland 88 Tuesday, April 28 Portland 88, Houston 77 Thursday, April 30 Houston 92,...
Red Bulls send forward Dominic Oduro to Houston for draft picks - The Canadian Press
SECAUCUS, NJ — The New York Red Bulls traded forward Dominic Oduro to Houston on Wednesday for the Dynamo's highest first-round pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft and its highest second-round pick in the 2011 draft. The Red Bulls also waived goalkeeper...
Roger Clemens' Houston Web chat session still out of site - New York Daily News
BY Michael O'Keeffe Roger Clemens still wants to take his message directly to the people, but the steroid-stained star can't seem to find the time. Clemens offered to field questions from viewers of Houstonist two weeks ago, following the release of...
Couple found shot to death in SW Houston home - Houston Chronicle
A husband and wife were found shot to death Wednesday when their three children returned from school to the family's southwest Houston home, police said. The couple, who have not been identified, were found dead about 3:30 pm inside the home in the...
Nordstrom to open first Rack store in Houston - Bizjournals.com
“We've wanted to bring our Houston customers a Nordstrom Rack for some time and we're thrilled about this opportunity,” Scott Meden, president of Nordstrom Rack, said in a statement. The store will be located in The Centre at Post Oak near Post Oak and...
Houston City Council empathizes with McIngvale - Houston Chronicle
By BRADLEY OLSON HOUSTON CHRONICLE Jim McIngvale gave an emotional and detailed account at City Council this morning of the fire that destroyed his Gallery Furniture warehouse last week. In return, he got nearly a half hour of praise from council...


From left to right, top to bottom:  Downtown Houston Skyline, Medical Center Skyline, Reliant Astrodome, The METRORail, Mission Control, and City Hall

Houston (pronounced /ˈhjuːstən/, locally /ˈjuːstən/) is the fourth-largest city in the United States of America and the largest city within the state of Texas. As of the 2007 U.S. Census estimate, the city has a population of 2.2 million within an area of 600 square miles (1,600 km²). Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area—the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. with a population of 5.6 million.

Houston was founded on August 30, 1836 by brothers Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen on land near the banks of Buffalo Bayou. The city was incorporated on June 5, 1837 and named after then-President of the Republic of Texas—former General Sam Houston—who had commanded at the Battle of San Jacinto, which took place 25 miles (40 km) east of where the city was established. The burgeoning port and railroad industry, combined with oil discovery in 1901, has induced continual surges in the city's population. In the mid-twentieth century, Houston became the home of the Texas Medical Center—the world's largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions—and NASA's Johnson Space Center, where the Mission Control Center is located.

Rated as a beta world city, Houston's economy has a broad industrial base in the energy, manufacturing, aeronautics, transportation, and health care sectors and is a leading center for building oilfield equipment; only New York City is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters in the city limits. The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. The city has a multicultural population with a large and growing international community. It is home to many cultural institutions and exhibits—attracting more than 7 million visitors a year to the Houston Museum District. Houston has an active visual and performing arts scene in the Theater District and is one of few U.S. cities that offer year-round resident companies in all major performing arts.

In August 1836, John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen, two real estate entrepreneurs from New York City, purchased 6,642 acres (27 km²) of land along Buffalo Bayou with the intent of founding a city. The Allen brothers decided to name the city after Sam Houston, the popular general at the Battle of San Jacinto, who was elected President of Texas in September 1836.

Houston was granted incorporation on June 5, 1837, with James S. Holman becoming its first mayor. In the same year, Houston became the county seat of Harrisburg County (now Harris County) and the temporary capital of the Republic of Texas. In 1840, the community established a chamber of commerce in part to promote shipping and waterborne business at the newly created port on Buffalo Bayou.

By 1860, Houston had emerged as a commercial and railroad hub for the export of cotton. Railroad spurs from the Texas inland converged in Houston, where they met rail lines to the ports of Galveston and Beaumont. During the American Civil War, Houston served as a headquarters for General John Bankhead Magruder, who used the city as an organization point for the Battle of Galveston. After the Civil War, Houston businessmen initiated efforts to widen the city's extensive system of bayous so the city could accept more commerce between downtown and the nearby port of Galveston. By 1890 Houston was the railroad center of Texas.

In 1900, after Galveston was struck by a devastating hurricane, efforts to make Houston into a viable deepwater port were accelerated. The following year, oil discovered at the Spindletop oil field near Beaumont prompted the development of the Texas petroleum industry. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt approved a $1 million improvement project for the Houston Ship Channel. By 1910 the city's population had reached 78,800, almost doubling from a decade before. An integral part of the city were African Americans, who numbered 23,929 or nearly one-third of the residents. They were developing a strong professional class based then in the Fourth Ward.

President Woodrow Wilson opened the deepwater Port of Houston in 1914, seven years after digging began. By 1930, Houston had become Texas's most populous city and Harris the most populous county.

When World War II started, tonnage levels at the port decreased and shipping activities were suspended; however, the war did provide economic benefits for the city. Petrochemical refineries and manufacturing plants were constructed along the ship channel because of the demand for petroleum and synthetic rubber products during the war. Ellington Field, initially built during World War I, was revitalized as an advanced training center for bombardiers and navigators. The M. D. Anderson Foundation formed the Texas Medical Center in 1945. After the war, Houston's economy reverted to being primarily port-driven. In 1948, several unincorporated areas were annexed into the city limits, which more than doubled the city's size, and Houston proper began to spread across the region.

In 1950, the availability of air conditioning provided impetus for many companies to relocate to Houston resulting in an economic boom and producing a key shift in the city's economy toward the energy sector.

The increased production of the local shipbuilding industry during World War II spurred Houston's growth, as did the establishment in 1961 of NASA's "Manned Spacecraft Center" (renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973), which created the city's aerospace industry. The Astrodome, nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World," opened in 1965 as the world's first indoor domed sports stadium.

During the late 1970s, Houston experienced a population boom as people from Rust Belt states moved to Texas in large numbers. The new residents came for the numerous employment opportunities in the petroleum industry, created as a result of the Arab Oil Embargo.

The population boom ended abruptly in the mid-1980s, as oil prices fell precipitously. The space industry also suffered in 1986 after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch. The late 1980s saw a recession adversely affect the city's economy.

Since the 1990s, as a result of the recession, Houston has made efforts to diversify its economy by focusing on aerospace and health care/biotechnology and by reducing its dependence on the petroleum industry. In 1997, Houstonians elected Lee P. Brown as the city's first African American mayor.

In June 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped up to 37 inches (940 mm) of rain on parts of Houston, causing the worst flooding in the city's history; the storm cost billions of dollars in damage and killed 20 people in Texas. Many neighborhoods and communities have changed since the storm. By December of that same year, Houston-based energy company Enron collapsed into the second-largest ever U.S. bankruptcy during an investigation surrounding fabricated partnerships that were allegedly used to hide debt and inflate profits.

In August 2005, Houston became a shelter to more than 150,000 people from New Orleans who evacuated from Hurricane Katrina. One month later, approximately 2.5 million Houston area residents evacuated when Hurricane Rita approached the Gulf Coast, leaving little damage to the Houston area. This event marked the largest urban evacuation in the history of the United States.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 601.7 square miles (1,558.4 km²); this comprises 579.4 square miles (1,500.7 km²) of land and 22.3 square miles (57.7 km²) of water. Most of Houston is located on the gulf coastal plain, and its vegetation is classified as temperate grassland and forest. Much of the city was built on forested land, marshes, swamp, or prairie, which are all still visible in surrounding areas. Flatness of the local terrain, when combined with urban sprawl, has made flooding a recurring problem for the city. Downtown stands about 50 feet (15 m) above sea level, and the highest point in far northwest Houston is about 125 feet (38 m) in elevation. The city once relied on groundwater for its needs, but land subsidence forced the city to turn to ground-level water sources such as Lake Houston and Lake Conroe.

Houston has four major bayous passing through the city. Buffalo Bayou runs through downtown and the Houston Ship Channel, and has three tributaries: White Oak Bayou, which runs through the Heights neighborhood and towards downtown; Braes Bayou, which runs along the Texas Medical Center; and Sims Bayou, which runs through the south of Houston and downtown Houston. The ship channel continues past Galveston and then into the Gulf of Mexico.

Underpinning Houston's land surface are unconsolidated clays, clay shales, and poorly-cemented sands up to several miles deep. The region's geology developed from river deposits formed from the erosion of the Rocky Mountains. These sediments consist of a series of sands and clays deposited on decaying organic matter that, over time, transformed into oil and natural gas. Beneath the layers of sediment is a water-deposited layer of halite, a rock salt. The porous layers were compressed over time and forced upward. As it pushed upward, the salt dragged surrounding sediments into salt dome formations, often trapping oil and gas that seeped from the surrounding porous sands. The thick, rich, sometimes black, surface soil is suitable for rice farming in suburban outskirts where the city continues to grow.

The Houston area has over 150 active faults (estimated to be 300 active faults) with an aggregate length of up to 310 miles (500 km), including the Long Point-Eureka Heights Fault System which runs through the center of the city. There have been no significant historically recorded earthquakes in Houston, but researchers do not discount the possibility of such quakes occurring in the deeper past, nor in the future. Land in some communities southeast of Houston is sinking because water has been pumped out from the ground for many years. It may be associated with slip along faults; however, the slippage is slow and not considered an earthquake, where stationary faults must slip suddenly enough to create seismic waves. These faults also tend to move at a smooth rate in what is termed "fault creep," which further reduces the risk of an earthquake.

Houston's climate is classified as humid subtropical (Cfa in Köppen climate classification system). Spring supercell thunderstorms sometimes bring tornados to the area. Prevailing winds are from the south and southeast during most of the year, bringing heat across the continent from the deserts of Mexico and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

During the summer months, it is common for the temperature to reach over 90 °F (32 °C), with an average of 99 days per year above 90 °F (32 °C). However, the humidity results in a heat index higher than the actual temperature. Summer mornings average over 90 percent relative humidity and approximately 60 percent in the afternoon. Winds are often light in the summer and offer little relief, except near the immediate coast. To cope with the heat, people use air conditioning in nearly every vehicle and building in the city; in fact, in 1980 Houston was described as the "most air-conditioned place on earth". Scattered afternoon thunderstorms are common in the summer. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Houston was 109 °F (43 °C) on September 4, 2000.

Winters in Houston are fairly temperate. The average high in January, the coldest month, is 63 °F (17 °C), while the average low is 41 °F (5 °C). Snowfall is generally rare. Recent snow events in Houston include a storm on December 24, 2004 where 1.0 inches (2.5 cm) fell and more recent snowfalls on December 10 and December 24, 2008. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Houston was 5 °F (−15 °C) on January 23, 1940. Houston receives a high amount of rainfall annually, averaging about 48 inches a year. These rains tend to cause floods over portions of the city. On September 13, 2008 at 2:10 am Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston becoming the 3rd most costly hurricane on record behind Katrina and Andrew.

Houston has excessive ozone levels and is ranked among the most ozone-polluted cities in the United States. Ground-level ozone, or smog, is Houston’s predominant air pollution problem, with the American Lung Association rating the metropolitan area's ozone level as the 6th worst in the United States in 2006. The industries located along the ship channel are a major cause of the city's air pollution.

Houston was incorporated in 1837 under the ward system of representation. The ward designation is the progenitor of the nine current-day Houston City Council districts. Locations in Houston are generally classified as either being inside or outside the Interstate 610 Loop. The inside encompasses the central business district and many residential neighborhoods that predate World War II. More recently, high-density residential areas have been developed within the loop. The city's outlying areas, suburbs and enclaves are located outside of the loop. Beltway 8 encircles the city another 5 miles (8 km) farther out.

Though Houston is the largest city in the United States without formal zoning regulations, it has developed similarly to other Sun Belt cities because the city's land use regulations and legal covenants have played a similar role. Regulations include mandatory lot size for single-family houses and requirements that parking be available to tenants and customers. Such restrictions have had mixed results. Though some have blamed the city's low density, urban sprawl, and lack of pedestrian-friendliness on these policies, the city's land use has also been credited with a bounty of affordable housing, sparing Houston the worst effects of the 2008 real estate crisis. The city issued 42,697 building permits in 2008 and was ranked first in the list of healthiest housing markets for 2009, according to Builder magazine.

Voters rejected efforts to have separate residential and commercial land-use districts in 1948, 1962, and 1993. Consequently, rather than a single central business district as the center of the city's employment, multiple districts have grown throughout the city in addition to downtown which include Uptown, Texas Medical Center, Midtown, Greenway Plaza, Energy Corridor, Westchase, and Greenspoint.

The city of Houston has a strong mayoral form of municipal government. Houston is a home rule city and all municipal elections in the state of Texas are nonpartisan. The City's elected officials are the mayor, city controller and 14 members of the city council. As of 2007, the mayor of Houston is William "Bill" White, a Democrat elected on a nonpartisan ballot who is serving his third and final term (due to term limits). Houston's mayor serves as the city's chief administrator, executive officer, and official representative. He is responsible for the general management of the city and for seeing that all laws and ordinances are enforced. As the result of a 1991 referendum in Houston, a mayor is elected for a two-year term, and can be elected to as many as three consecutive terms.

The current city council line-up of nine district based and five at large positions was based on a U.S. Justice Department mandate which took effect in 1979. At-large council members represent the entire city. Under the current city charter, if the population in the city limits goes past 2.1 million residents, the current nine-member city council districts will be expanded with the addition of two city council districts.

The city of Houston has been criticized for running the worst recycling program among the United States' 30 largest cities. In October 2008, the city's Sustainable Growth Committee, Chaired by Council Member Peter Brown, initiated a program to recycle heavy organic yard waste which is expected to salvage 90,000 short tons (82,000 metric tons) annually. enough to fill the Chase Tower, the city's tallest structure.

Police services are provided by the Houston Police Department. Houston's murder rate ranked 46th of U.S. cities with a population over 250,000 in 2005 (per capita rate of 16.3 murders per 100,000 population). The city's murder rate, however, ranked 3rd among U.S. cities with a population of 1,000,000 or more. Even those statistics were thrown into dispute after local TV news investigator Mark Greenblatt found the Houston Police Department under-counted 2005 homicides. Officially counting just two more of the city's murders would have bumped up the city's murder rate to second place.

While nonviolent crime in the city dropped by 2 percent in 2005 compared to 2004, the number of homicides rose by 23.5 percent. Since 2005, Houston has been experiencing a spike in crime, which is due in part to an influx of people from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. After Katrina, Houston's murder rate increased 70 percent in November and December 2005 compared to levels in 2004. The city recorded 336 murders in 2005, compared to 272 in 2004.

Houston's homicide rate per 100,000 residents increased from 16.33 in 2005 to 17.24 in 2006. The number of murders in the city increased to 379 in 2006. In 1996, there were about 380 gangs with 8,000 members; of which 2,500 were juveniles.

Houston is recognized worldwide for its energy industry—particularly for oil and natural gas—as well as for biomedical research and aeronautics. Renewable energy sources—wind and solar—are also becoming popular economic bases in Houston. The ship channel is also a large part of Houston's economic base. Because of these strengths, Houston is designated as a beta world city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network.

Five of the six supermajor energy companies maintain a large base of operations in Houston (international headquarters of ConocoPhillips; US operational headquarters of Exxon-Mobil; US headquarters for international companies Shell Oil (US subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell located in The Hague, Netherlands), and BP whose international headquarters are in London, England). Specifically, the headquarters of Shell Oil Company, the US affiliate of Royal Dutch Shell, is located at One Shell Plaza. While ExxonMobil maintains its small, global headquarters in Irving, Texas, its upstream and chemical divisions as well as most operational divisions, are located in Houston. Chevron has offices in Houston, having acquired a 40 story building intended to be the headquarters of Enron. The company's Chevron Pipe Line Company subsidiary is headquartered in Houston, and more divisions are being consolidated and moved to Houston each year. Houston is headquarters for the Marathon Oil Corporation, Apache Corporation, and Citgo and alternative energy companies such as Horizon Wind Energy.

Greater Houston is a leading center for building oilfield equipment. Much of Houston's success as a petrochemical complex is due to its busy man-made ship channel, the Port of Houston. The port ranks first in the United States in international commerce, and is the tenth-largest port in the world. Unlike most places, where high oil and gasoline prices are seen as harmful to the economy, they are generally seen as beneficial for Houston as many are employed in the energy industry.

The Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown MSA's Gross Area Product (GAP) in 2006 was $325.5 billion, slightly larger than Austria’s, Poland’s or Saudi Arabia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). When comparing Houston's economy to a national economy, only 21 countries other than the United States have a gross domestic product exceeding Houston's regional gross area product. Mining, which in Houston is almost entirely exploration and production of oil and gas, accounts for 11% of Houston's GAP; this is down from 21% in 1985. The reduced role of oil and gas in Houston's GAP reflects the rapid growth of other sectors, such as engineering services, health services, and manufacturing.

The Houston area added 42,400 private-sector jobs between November 2007 and November 2008 and registered the nation’s largest gain in private-sector employment among the nation's cities, according to employment statistics of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate in the city was 3.8% in April 2008, the lowest level in eight years while the job growth rate was 2.8%.

In 2006, the Houston metropolitan area ranked first in Texas and third in the U.S. within the Category of "Best Places for Business and Careers" by Forbes magazine. Forty foreign governments maintain trade and commercial offices here and the city has 23 active foreign chambers of commerce and trade associations. Twenty foreign banks representing 10 nations operate in Houston, providing financial assistance to the international community.

In 2008, Houston received top ranking on Kiplinger's Personal Finance Best Cities of 2008 list which ranks cities on their local economy, employment opportunities, reasonable living costs and quality of life. The city ranked fourth for highest increase in the local technological innovation over the preceding 15 years, according to Forbes magazine. In the same year, the city ranked second on the annual Fortune 500 list of company headquarters,, ranked first for Forbes Best Cities for College Graduates. and ranked first on Forbes list of Best Cities to Buy a Home.

Houston is a diverse and international city, in part because of its many academic institutions and strong industries. Over 90 languages are spoken in the city. Houston has among the youngest populations in the nation, partly due to an influx of immigrants into Texas. The city has the third-largest Hispanic and third-largest Mexican American population in the United States. An estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants reside in the Greater Houston area. Houston has one of the largest communities of Indian-Americans and Pakistani-Americans in the United States. The Nigerian community in Houston, estimated to be over 2 percent of the city's population, is the largest in the United States.

According to the 2007 U.S. Census estimates, Houston's population was 55 percent White (28 percent non-Hispanic-White), 24.7 percent Black or African American, 0.6 percent American Indian and Alaska native, 5.5 percent Asian, 0.1 percent native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 15.2 percent some other race, 1.1 percent two or more races, 41.7 percent Hispanic or Latino of any race (mostly Mexican).

As of the census of 2000, there were 1,953,631 people and the population density was 3,371.7 people per square mile (1,301.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 49.27 percent White, 25.31 percent Black, 5.31 percent Asian, 0.44 percent American Indian, 0.06 percent Pacific Islander, 16.46 percent from some other race, and 3.15 percent from two or more races. Persons of Hispanic origin—who may be of any race—accounted for 37 percent of the population while non-Hispanic whites made up 30.8 percent.

Houston has a large population of immigrants from Asia, including the largest Vietnamese-American population in Texas and third-largest in the United States, with 85,000 people in 2006. Some parts of the city with high populations of Vietnamese and Chinese residents have Chinese and Vietnamese street signs, in addition to English ones. Houston has two Chinatowns: the original located in Downtown, and the more recent one north of Bellaire Boulevard in the southwest area of the city. The city has a Little Saigon in Midtown and Vietnamese businesses located in the southwest Houston Chinatown. A "Little India" community referred to as the "Harwin District" exists along Hillcroft.

Houston has a large gay community concentrated primarily in Montrose, Neartown and Houston Heights. It is estimated that the Houston metropolitan area has the twelfth-largest number of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals in the United States.

Houston is a multicultural city with a large and growing international community. The metropolitan area is home to an estimated 1.1 million (21.4 percent) residents who were born outside the United States, with nearly two-thirds of the area's foreign-born population from south of the United States–Mexico border. Additionally, more than one in five foreign-born residents are from Asia. The city is home to the nation’s third largest concentration of consular offices, representing 86 countries.

Many annual events celebrate the diverse cultures of Houston. The largest and longest running is the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, held over 20 days from late February to early March. Another large celebration is the annual night-time Houston Pride Parade, held at the end of June. Other annual events include the Houston Greek Festival, Art Car Parade, the Houston Auto Show, the Houston International Festival and the Westheimer Block Party.

Houston has an active visual and performing arts scene. The Theater District is located downtown and is home to nine major performing arts organizations and six performance halls. It is the second-largest concentration of theater seats in a downtown area in the United States. Houston is one of few United States cities with permanent, professional, resident companies in all major performing arts disciplines: opera (Houston Grand Opera), ballet (Houston Ballet), music (Houston Symphony Orchestra), and theater (The Alley Theatre). Houston is also home to many local folk artists, art groups and various smaller progressive arts organizations. Houston attracts many touring Broadway acts, concerts, shows, and exhibitions for a variety of interests.

Houston holds the Bayou City Art Festival, which is considered to be one of the top five art festivals in the United States.

The Museum District has many popular cultural institutions and exhibits, which attract more than 7 million visitors a year. Notable facilities located in the district include The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Holocaust Museum Houston, and the Houston Zoo. Located in the nearby Montrose area are The Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel.

Bayou Bend, located in River Oaks, is a 14-acre (5.7 ha) facility of the Museum of Fine Arts that houses one of America's best collections of decorative art, paintings and furniture. Bayou Bend is the former home of Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg.

Many venues scattered across Houston regularly host local and touring rock, blues, country, hip hop and Tejano musical acts. There has never been a widely renowned music scene in Houston. Artists seem to relocate to other parts of the United States once attaining some level of success. A notable exception to the rule is Houston hip-hop, which celebrates the unique southern flavor and attitude of its roots. This has given rise to a strong, independent hip-hop music scene, influencing and influenced by the larger Southern hip hop and gangsta rap communities. Many Houstonian hip-hop artists have attained commercial success. Many non-hip hop artists that come from Houston include the hard Southern rock band ZZ Top, pop singer Hilary Duff, singer and actor Patrick Swayze, and indie-piano rock band Blue October.

The Theater District is a 17-block area in the center of downtown Houston that is home to the Bayou Place entertainment complex, restaurants, movies, plazas, and parks. Bayou Place is a large multilevel building containing full-service restaurants, bars, live music, billiards, and art house films. The Houston Verizon Wireless Theater stages live concerts, stage plays, and stand-up comedy; and the Angelika Film Center presents art, foreign and independent films.

Houston is home to 337 parks including Hermann Park, which houses the Houston Zoo and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Terry Hershey Park, Lake Houston Park, Memorial Park, Tranquility Park, Sesquicentennial Park, Discovery Green and Sam Houston Park (which contains restored and reconstructed homes which were originally built between 1823 and 1905). Of the 10 most populous U.S. cities, Houston has the most total area of parks and green space: 56,405 acres (228 km2). The city also has over 200 additional green spaces—totaling over 19,600 acres (79 km2) that are managed by the city—including the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. The Houston Civic Center was replaced by the George R. Brown Convention Center—one of the nation's largest—and the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, home of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and Society for the Performing Arts. The Sam Houston Coliseum and Music Hall have been replaced by the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.

Space Center Houston is the official visitors’ center of NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Here one will find many interactive exhibits including moon rocks, a shuttle simulator, and presentations about the history of NASA's manned space flight program.

Other tourist attractions include the Galleria (Texas's largest shopping mall located in the Uptown District), Old Market Square, the Downtown Aquarium, SplashTown and Sam Houston Race Park. The San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site where the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution was fought is located on the Houston Ship channel east of the city; the park is also the location of the museum battleship USS Texas.

Houston has teams for nearly every major professional sport. The Houston Astros (MLB), Houston Texans (NFL), Houston Rockets (NBA), Houston Dynamo (MLS), Houston Aeros (AHL), Houston Wranglers (WTT), Houston Takers (ABA), Houston Energy (IWFL), Houston Leones (PDL), and the H-Town Texas Cyclones (NWFA) all call Houston home.

Minute Maid Park (home of the Astros) and Toyota Center (home of the Rockets, and Aeros) are located in a revived area of downtown. The city has the Reliant Astrodome, the first domed stadium in the world; it also holds the NFL's first retractable-roof stadium, Reliant Stadium. Other sports facilities in Houston include Hofheinz Pavilion, Reliant Arena (home of the Comets), and Robertson Stadium (both used for University of Houston collegiate sports, the latter also for the Houston Dynamo), and Rice Stadium (home of the Rice University Owls football team). The infrequently used Reliant Astrodome hosted World Wrestling Entertainment's WrestleMania X-Seven on April 1, 2001, where an attendance record of 67,925 was set. The city will host WrestleMania XXV at Reliant Stadium on April 5, 2009.

Houston has hosted major recent sporting events, including the 2004 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the 2000 IHL All-Star Game, the 2005 World Series, the 2005 Big 12 Conference football championship game, the 2006 NBA All-Star Game, the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships from 2001–2006, and the Tennis Masters Cup in 2003 and 2004, as well as the annual Shell Houston Open golf tournament. Starting in 2009, Houston will host the final official event in the LPGA golf season, the Stanford Financial Tour Championship. The city hosts the annual NCAA College Baseball Minute Maid Classic every February and NCAA football's Texas Bowl in December. Houston has hosted the Super Bowl championship game twice. Super Bowl VIII was played at Rice Stadium in 1974 and Super Bowl XXXVIII was played at Reliant Stadium in 2004. From 1998 to 2001, the CART auto racing series held a yearly race, the Grand Prix of Houston, on downtown streets. After a five-year hiatus, CART's successor series, Champ Car, revived the race for 2006 and 2007 on the streets surrounding the Reliant Park complex. However, Champ Car merged with the rival Indy Racing League (IRL) in 2008, discontinuing the Houston race in the process.

Houston is served by the Houston Chronicle, its only major daily newspaper with wide distribution. The Hearst Corporation, which owns and operates the Houston Chronicle, bought the assets of the Houston Post—its long-time rival and main competition—when Houston Post ceased operations in 1995. The Houston Post was owned by the family of former Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby of Houston. The only other major publication to serve the city is the Houston Press—a free alternative weekly with a weekly readership of more than 300,000.

Among leading media personalities in Houston were Ray Miller, host of The Eyes of Texas, a cultural anthology series broadcast for nearly three decades over KPRC-TV, the NBC affiliate as well as Marvin Zindler. In the late 1960s, Miller hired Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Galveston native as the first woman newswoman in Texas. She later served in the Texas House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

Houston's skyline has been ranked fourth most impressive in the United States; it is the third-tallest skyline in the United States and one of the top 10 in the world. Houston has a seven-mile (11 km) system of tunnels and skywalks linking buildings in downtown which contain shops, restaurants, and convenience stores. This system enables pedestrians to avoid the intense summer heat and heavy rain showers while walking from one building to another.

In the 1960s, Downtown Houston consisted of a modest collection of mid-rise office structures, but has since grown into one of the largest skylines in the United States. Downtown was on the threshold of a boom in 1970 with huge projects being launched by real estate developers with the energy industry boom. A succession of skyscrapers were built throughout the 1970s—many by real estate developer Gerald D. Hines—culminating with Houston's tallest skyscraper, the 75-floor, 1,002-foot (305 m)-tall JPMorgan Chase Tower (formerly the Texas Commerce Tower), which was completed in 1982. It is the tallest structure in Texas, 10th-tallest building in the United States and the 30th-tallest skyscraper in the world based on height to roof. In 1983, the 71-floor, 992-foot (302 m)-tall Wells Fargo Bank Plaza (formerly Allied Bank Plaza) was completed, which became the second-tallest building in Houston and Texas. Based on height to roof, it is the 13th-tallest in the United States and the 36th-tallest in the world. As of 2006, downtown Houston had about 43 million square feet (4,000,000 m²) of office space.

Centered on Post Oak Boulevard and Westheimer Road, the Uptown District boomed during the 1970s and early 1980s when a collection of mid-rise office buildings, hotels, and retail developments appeared along Interstate 610 west. Uptown became one of the most impressive instances of an edge city. The highest achievement of Uptown was the construction of the 64-floor, 901-foot (275 m)-tall, Philip Johnson and John Burgee designed landmark Williams Tower (known as the Transco Tower until 1999). At the time, it was believed to the be the world's tallest skyscraper outside of a central business district. The Uptown District is also home to other buildings designed by noted architects such as I. M. Pei, César Pelli, and Philip Johnson. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a mini-boom of mid-rise and high-rise residential tower construction, with several over 30 stories tall. In 2002, Uptown had more than 23 million square feet (2,100,000 m²) of office space with 16 million square feet (1,500,000 m²) of Class A office space.

Houston's freeway system is made up of 575.5 miles (926.2 km) of freeways and expressways in a ten-county metropolitan area. Its highway system uses a hub-and-spoke freeway structure serviced by multiple loops. The innermost loop is Interstate 610, which encircles downtown, the medical center, and many core neighborhoods with around a 10-mile (16 km) diameter. Beltway 8 and its freeway core, the Sam Houston Tollway, form the middle loop at a diameter of roughly 25 miles (40 km). A proposed highway project, State Highway 99 (The Grand Parkway), would form a third loop outside of Houston. Currently, only two out of eleven segments of State Highway 99 have been completed.

Houston also lies along the route of the proposed Interstate 69 NAFTA superhighway that would link Canada, the U.S. industrial Midwest, Texas, and Mexico. Other spoke freeways either planned or under construction include the Fort Bend Parkway, Hardy Toll Road, Crosby Freeway, and the future Alvin Freeway.

Houston's freeway system is monitored by Houston TranStar—a partnership of four government agencies that are responsible for providing transportation and emergency management services to the region. Houston TranStar was the first center in the nation to combine transportation and emergency management centers, and the first to bring four agencies (Texas Department of Transportation, Harris County, Texas, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas and the City of Houston) together to share their resources.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas, or METRO, provides public transportation in the form of buses, light rail, and lift vans. METRO's various forms of public transportation still do not connect many of the suburbs to the greater city.

METRO began light rail service on January 1, 2004 with the inaugural track ("Red Line") running about 8 miles (13 km) from the University of Houston–Downtown (UHD), which traverses through the Texas Medical Center and terminates at Reliant Park. METRO is currently in the design phase of a 10-year expansion plan that will add five more lines to the existing system.

Amtrak, the national rail passenger system, provides service to Houston via the Sunset Limited (Los Angeles–New Orleans), which stops at a train station on the north side of the downtown area. The station saw 10,855 boardings and alightings in fiscal year 2006.

Houston is served by two commercial airports, serving 52 million passengers in 2007. The larger is George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), the ninth-busiest in the United States for total passengers, and seventeenth-busiest worldwide. Bush Intercontinental currently ranks third in the United States for non-stop domestic and international service with 182 destinations. In 2006, the United States Department of Transportation named George Bush Intercontinental Airport the fastest-growing of the top ten airports in the United States. Houston is the headquarters of Continental Airlines and Bush Intercontinental is Continental Airlines' largest hub. The airline offers more than 700 daily departures from Houston. In early 2007, Bush Intercontinental Airport was named a model "port of entry" for international travelers by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center stands on the George Bush Intercontinental Airport grounds.

The second-largest commercial airport in Houston is William P. Hobby Airport (named Houston International Airport until 1967). The airport operates primarily small to medium-haul flights and is the only airport in Houston served by Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways. Houston's aviation history is showcased in the 1940 Air Terminal Museum located in the old terminal building on the west side of Hobby Airport.

Another airport is Ellington Airport (a former U.S. Air Force base) that is used by military, government, NASA, and general aviation sectors.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the state of Texas selected the "Houston Airport System as Airport of the Year" for 2005, largely because of its multi-year, $3.1 billion airport improvement program for both major airports in Houston.

Houston is the seat of the internationally-renowned Texas Medical Center, which contains the world's largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions. All 45 member institutions of the Texas Medical Center are non-profit organizations. They provide patient and preventive care, research, education, and local, national, and international community well-being. These institutions include 13 renowned hospitals and two specialty institutions, two medical schools, four nursing schools, and schools of dentistry, public health, pharmacy, and virtually all health-related careers. It is where one of the first—and still the largest—air emergency service, Life Flight, was created, and a very successful inter-institutional transplant program was developed. More heart surgeries are performed at the Texas Medical Center than anywhere else in the world.

Some of the academic and research health institutions in the center include Baylor College of Medicine, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, The Methodist Hospital, Texas Children's Hospital and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has consistently ranked as one of the top two U.S. hospitals specializing in cancer care by U.S. News & World Report since 1990.

Houston is the home of the Menninger Clinic,a renowned psychiatric treatment center affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital.

There are 17 school districts serving the city. The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is the seventh-largest in the United States. HISD has 112 campuses that serve as magnet or vanguard schools—specializing in such disciplines as health professions, visual and performing arts, and the sciences. There are also many charter schools that are run separately from school districts. In addition, some public school districts also have their own charter schools.

The Houston area is home to more than 300 private schools, many of which are accredited by Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC) recognized agencies. The Houston Area Independent Schools, or HAIS, offer education from a variety of different religious as well as secular viewpoints. The Houston area Catholic schools are operated by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

There are four public universities engaged in research and development in Houston. The University of Houston (UH) is Texas's third-largest public research university with more than 36,000 students from 130 countries. With nearly 300 degree programs and 40 research centers and institutes, UH is the flagship institution of the University of Houston System (UHS) and is one of the most ethnically diverse research university in the country. Its law school—University of Houston Law Center—ranked No. 55 (Tier 1) of the "Top 100 Law Schools" in 2008 by U.S. News & World Report. UH has the only optometry school and one of six pharmacy programs in Texas. The University of Houston–Clear Lake (UHCL) is an upper-level university with 89 degree programs and an enrollment of 7,700 located adjacent to NASA's Johnson Space Center. The University of Houston–Downtown (UHD) is an open admissions four-year university with an enrollment of 12,300 offering 46 degree programs. Texas Southern University (TSU) is a historically black four-year university with a pharmacy program and the Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

Houston is home to many private institutions of higher learning—ranging from liberal arts colleges to a nationally recognized Tier One research university. Rice University is one of the leading teaching and research universities of the United States and ranked the nation's 17th-best overall university by U.S. News & World Report. Two private liberal arts colleges are Houston Baptist University and University of St. Thomas. Founded in 1923, South Texas College of Law is a private and oldest law school in Houston located in Downtown.

There are three community college districts with campuses in Houston. The Houston Community College System serves most of Houston and is the fourth-largest community college system in the United States. The northwestern through northeastern parts of the city are served by various campuses of the Lone Star College System while the southeastern portion of Houston is served by San Jacinto College.

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Sam Houston

Sam Houston

Samuel Houston (March 2, 1793 – July 26, 1863) was a 19th century American statesman, politician, and soldier. Born on Timber Ridge, just north of Lexington in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, Houston was a key figure in the history of Texas, including periods as President of the Republic of Texas, Senator for Texas after it joined the United States, and finally as governor. Although a slaveowner and opponent of abolitionism, he refused, because of his unionist convictions, to swear loyalty to the Confederacy when Texas seceded from the Union, bringing his governorship to an end. To avoid bloodshed, he refused an offer of an army to put down the rebellion, and instead retired to Huntsville, Texas, where he died before the end of the Civil War.

His earlier life included encouraging emigration to Tennessee, time spent with the Cherokee Nation (into which he was adopted and later married into), military service in the War of 1812, and subsequent successful involvement in Tennessee politics. Houston is the only person in U.S. history to have been the governor of two different states, Tennessee and Texas, although others were governors of multiple American colonies.

A fight with a Congressman, followed by a high profile trial, led to his emigration to Mexican Texas, where he soon became a leader of the Texas Revolution. He eventually supported annexation by the United States rather than seeking long term independence and expansion for Texas. The city of Houston was named after him during this period. Houston's reputation survived his death: posthumous commemoration has included a memorial museum, a U.S. Army base, a national forest, a historical park, a university, and the largest free-standing statue of an American figure.

Sam Houston was born on March 2, 1793,on his family's plantation near Timber Ridge Church, outside Lexington, Virginia, in Rockbridge County, to Major Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton Houston. He was one of nine children. His father was a member of Morgan's Rifle Brigade during the American Revolutionary War. He was of Scots-Irish descent.

Receiving only a basic education, young Sam, with his family, moved to Maryville, Tennessee following the death of his father in 1807. His mother then took the family to live on Baker Creek, Tennessee. He ran away from home in 1809 and resided for a time with the Cherokee tribe of Chief Oolooteka on Hiwassee Island. He was adopted into the Cherokee Nation and given the name Colonneh or "the Raven". He returned to Maryville in 1812, and, at the age of 19, founded a one-room schoolhouse. This was the first school ever built in Tennessee, which had become a state in 1796.

In 1812 Houston reported to a training camp in Knoxville, Tennessee, and enlisted in the 7th Regiment of Infantry to fight the British in the War of 1812. By December of that year, he had risen from private to third lieutenant. At the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814, he was wounded in the thigh by a Creek arrow. His wound was bandaged, and he rejoined the fight. When Andrew Jackson called on volunteers to dislodge a group of Red Sticks (Creek Indians) from their breastworks (fortifications), Houston volunteered, but during the assault, he was struck by bullets in the shoulder and arm. He returned to Knoxville as a disabled veteran, but later took the army's offer of free surgery and convalescenced in a New Orleans, Louisiana, hospital. Houston became close to Jackson. Following his recovery he was assigned as an Indian agent to the Cherokees. He left the army in March 1818.

Following six months of study at the office of Judge James Trimble, Houston passed the bar examination in Nashville, after which he opened a legal practice in Lebanon, Tennessee. He was made attorney general of the Nashville district in late 1818, and was also given a command in the state militia. In 1822 he was elected to the House of Representatives for Tennessee, where he was a staunch supporter of fellow Tennessean and Democrat Andrew Jackson, and was widely considered to be Jackson's political protégé, although their ideas as to the treatment of Indians differed greatly. He was a Congressman from 1823 to 1827, re-elected in 1824. In 1827 he declined to run for re-election to Congress and instead ran for, and won, the office of governor of Tennessee, defeating the former governor, William Carroll. He planned to stand for re-election in 1828, but resigned after marrying 18-year-old Eliza Allen. The marriage was forced by Eliza's father, Colonel John Allen, and never blossomed into a relationship. Houston and Eliza separated shortly after the marriage, for reasons Houston refused to discuss to the end of his life, and divorced in 1837, after he became President of Texas.

He spent time among the Cherokee, married a Cherokee widow named Tiana Rogers Gentry, and set up a trading post (Wigwam Neosho near Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation), apparently drinking heavily the entire time. During this time he was interviewed by Alexis De Tocqueville. His alleged drunkenness and abandonment of his office, and wife, caused a rift with his mentor Andrew Jackson, which would not be healed for several years.

During a business trip to New York and Washington, D.C., Houston was embroiled in a fight with an anti-Jacksonian Congressman. While Houston was in Washington in April 1832, Congressman William Stanbery of Ohio made accusations about Houston in a speech on the floor of Congress. Stanbery was attacking Jackson through Houston, and accused Houston of being in league with John Van Fossen and Congressman Robert S. Rose.

The three men bid on the supplying of rations to Indians who were being forcibly dispossessed and relocated because of Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830. Stanbery, now carrying two pistols and a dirk, refused to answer Houston's letters; infuriated, Houston later confronted Stanbery on Pennsylvania Avenue as Stanberry left Mrs. Queen's boardinghouse, and beat him with a hickory cane. Stanbery did manage to draw one of his pistols, place it at Houston's chest, and pull the trigger—the gun misfired.

On April 17 Congress ordered the arrest of Houston, who pleaded self-defense, and hired Francis Scott Key as his lawyer. Houston was found guilty, but thanks to high-placed friends (among them James K. Polk), he was only lightly reprimanded. Stanbery then filed charges against Houston in civil court. Judge William Cranch found Houston liable, and fined him $500, but Houston did not pay it, and left the country.

The publicity surrounding the trial resurrected Houston's unfavorable political reputation, and Houston made plans to go to Texas. He asked his wife, Diana Rodgers (also known as Tieana Rodger) to go with him, but she preferred to stay at the log cabin and trading post. Later she married a man named Sam McGrady, and died of pneumonia in 1838. Houston married again after her death.

Houston left his home with the Cherokee in December 1832, and was immediately swept up in the politics of what was still a Mexican state, Texas. There has been speculation over the years that Houston went to Texas at the request of President Andrew Jackson to seek the annexation of the territory for the United States, but no documentation to prove the suspicion.

Houston attended the Convention of 1833 as representative for Nacogdoches, and emerged as a supporter of William Harris Wharton and his brother, who supported independence from Mexico, the more radical position of the American settlers in Texas. He also attended the Consultation of 1835. He was then made a Major General of the Texas Army in November 1835, then Commander-in-Chief in March 1836, at the convention which met at Washington-on-the-Brazos to declare Texan Independence. He negotiated a settlement with the Cherokee in February 1836.

On March 2, 1836, his 43rd birthday, Houston signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. He soon joined his volunteer army at Gonzales, but was soon forced to retreat in the face of the superior forces of Mexican General (and dictator) Antonio López de Santa Anna, whose soldiers killed all those at The Alamo Mission at the conclusion of the Battle of the Alamo on March 6.

At the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, however, Houston surprised Santa Anna and the Mexican forces during their afternoon siesta. In less than 18 minutes, the battle was over. Badly beaten, Santa Anna was forced to sign the Treaty of Velasco, granting Texas independence. Although Houston stayed on briefly for negotiations, he returned to the United States for treatment of a wound to his ankle.

Houston was twice elected president of the Republic of Texas (the first time on September 5, 1836). He served from October 22, 1836, to December 10, 1838, and again from December 12, 1841 to December 9, 1844. On December 20, 1837, Houston presided over the convention of Freemasons that formed the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas, now the Grand Lodge of Texas.

He put down the Cordova Rebellion of 1838, and while he initially sought annexation by the U.S., he dropped that hope during his first term. In his second term, he strove for fiscal prudence, and worked to make peace with the Indians and to avoid war with Mexico, following the two invasions of 1842. He had to act over the Regulator-Moderator War of 1844, which caused him to send in the militia.

The settlement of Houston was founded in August 1836 by brothers J.K. Allen and A.C. Allen. It was named in Houston's honor, and served as capital. Gail Borden helped lay out Houston's streets.

In 1835, one year before being elected first President of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston founded the Holland Masonic Lodge. The initial founding of the lodge took place in Brazoria and was relocated to what is now Houston in 1837.

The city of Houston served as the capital until President Mirabeau Lamar signed a measure that moved the capital to Austin on January 14, 1839. Between his presidential terms (the constitution did not allow a president to serve consecutive terms), he was a representative in the Texas House of Representatives for San Augustine. He was a major critic of President Mirabeau Lamar, who advocated continuing independence of Texas and the extension of its boundaries to the Pacific Ocean.

On May 9, 1840, in Marion, Alabama, Houston married Margaret Moffette Lea, with whom he had eight children. He was 47 and she was 21. Margaret acted as a tempering influence on Houston. Although the Houstons had numerous houses, only one was kept continuously, Cedar Point, on Trinity Bay from ca. 1840 through 1863.

After the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845, Houston was elected to the U.S. Senate, along with Thomas Jefferson Rusk. Houston served from February 21, 1846, until March 4, 1859. He was a Senator during the Mexican-American War, when the U.S. acquired vast expanses of new territory in the Southwest from Mexico as part of the war's concluding treaty.

Houston supported the Oregon Bill in 1848, which was opposed by many Southerners. In his passionate speech in support of the Compromise of 1850, Houston said "A nation divided against itself cannot stand." Eight years later, Abraham Lincoln would express the same sentiment.

Houston opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, and correctly predicted that it would cause a sectional rift in the country that would eventually lead to war, saying: " ... what fields of blood, what scenes of horror, what mighty cities in smoke and ruins – it is brother murdering brother ... I see my beloved South go down in the unequal contest, in a sea of blood and smoking ruin." He was only one of two Southern senators (the other being John Bell of Tennessee) to vote against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He was even considered a potential candidate for President of the United States. But, despite the fact that he was a slave-owner, his strong Unionism and opposition to the extension of slavery alienated the Texas legislature and other southern States.

In 1854, Houston, having earlier made a profession of Christian faith, was baptized by the Baptist minister, Rufus C. Burleson, who was later the president of Baylor College (later, Baylor University). At the time Burleson was the pastor of the Independence, Texas, Baptist Church in Washington County, which Houston and his wife attended. Houston was also a close friend of another Baylor president and Burleson's predecessor as pastor at the Independence church, the Reverend George Washington Baines, maternal great-grandfather of Lyndon B. Johnson.

While Sam Houston is buried in Huntsville, Texas, his wife Margaret Lea is buried in the City of Independence, Texas.

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Greater Houston

Map of the Greater Houston

Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown is a 10-county metropolitan area defined by the Office of Management and Budget. It is located along the Gulf Coast region in the U.S. state of Texas. The metropolitan area is colloquially referred to as "Greater Houston" and is situated on the edge of East Texas—west of the Golden Triangle.

Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown is the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the United States with a population of 5.6 million as of the 2007 U.S. Census estimate. The population of the metropolitan area is centered in the city of Houston—the largest economic and cultural center of the American South with a population of 2.2 million.

Houston is among the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. The area grew 25.2 percent between the 1990 and 2000 censuses—adding more than 950,000 people—while the nation's population increased 13.2 percent over the same period. From 2000-2007, the area grew by 912,994 people. From 2000 to 2030, the metropolitan area is projected by Woods & Poole Economics to rank fifth in the nation in population growth—adding 2.66 million people.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area has a total area of 10,062 square miles (26,060 km²), 8,929 sq. mi. is land area, while 1,133 sq. mi. is water area.; slightly smaller than Massachusetts and slightly larger than New Jersey.

The metropolitan area is located in the gulf coastal plains biome, and its vegetation is classified as temperate grassland. Much of the metro area was built on forested land, marshes, swamp, or prairie—all of which can still be seen in surrounding areas. The further north you go in the Houston metro, you can find scenic rolling hills. Most notably, in Conroe, Magnolia, and Willis.

Much of the Houston metropolitan area is very flat, making flooding a recurring problem for some areas.

Underpinning Houston's land surface are unconsolidated clays, clay shales, and poorly-cemented sands up to several miles deep. The region's geology developed from stream deposits formed from the erosion of the Rocky Mountains. These sediments consist of a series of sands and clays deposited on decaying organic matter that, over time, transformed into oil and natural gas. Beneath these tiers is a water-deposited layer of halite, a rock salt. The porous layers were compressed over time and forced upward. As it pushed upward, the salt dragged surrounding sediments into dome shapes, often trapping oil and gas that seeped from the surrounding porous sands. This thick rich soil also provides a good environment for rice farming in suburban outskirts that the city continues to grow into near Katy. Evidence of past rice farming is even still evident in developed areas as there is an abundance of rich dark loamy top soil.

There are ten counties in the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan statistical area (MSA) defined by the U.S. Census. They are listed below with population figures as of the 2007 U.S. Census estimates.

This Combined Statistical Area encompasses 12,475 sq. mi. of area. 10,830 sq. mi. is land while 1,645 sq. mi. is water.

There are four "principal" cities defined by the U.S. Census as of 2003. Population figures are within the city limits as of the 2007 U.S. Census estimates.

Among the ten most populous metropolitan areas in the U.S., Houston ranked first in employment growth rate and second in nominal employment growth. In 2006, the Houston metropolitan area ranked first in Texas and third in the U.S. within the category of "Best Places for Business and Careers" by Forbes.

The Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown MSA's Gross Area Product (GAP) in 2005 was $308.7 billion, up 5.4 percent from 2004 in constant dollars—slightly larger than Austria's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Only 28 nations other than the United States have a GDP exceeding Houston's GAP. Mining, which in Houston is almost entirely oil and gas exploration and production, accounts for 11 percent of Houston's GAP—down from 21 percent as recently as 1985. The reduced role of oil and gas in Houston's GAP reflects the rapid growth of other sectors—such as engineering services, health services, and manufacturing.

The area's economic activity is centered in Houston, the county seat of Harris County. Houston is second to New York City in Fortune 500 headquarters. The city has attempted to build a banking industry, but the companies originally started in Houston have since merged with other companies nationwide. Banking, however, is still vital to the region.

Houston is a major port and financial center for oil companies. Houston's energy industry is a world powerhouse (particularly oil), but biomedical research, aeronautics, and the ship channel are also large parts of the city's industrial base. The Houston metropolitan area comprises the largest petrochemical manufacturing area in the world, including for synthetic rubber, insecticides, and fertilizers. The area is also the world's leading center for building oilfield equipment.

Much of metro area's success as a petrochemical complex is due to its busy man-made ship channel, the Port of Houston. Because of these economic trades, many residents have moved to the Houston area from other U.S. states, as well as hundreds of countries worldwide. Unlike most places, where high gas prices are seen as harmful to the economy, they are generally seen as beneficial for Houston as many are employed in the energy industry. Baytown, Texas City, Clute, and Galveston also have major ports and chemical plants. Galveston also has the largest cruise ship terminal in Texas (and the 12th-largest in the world) and is a recreational area for people in the region.

Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center—the largest medical center in the world. employing over 75,000 workers and treating 5 million patients a year from all over the world. Galveston is home to one of only two national biocontainment laboratories in the United States.

Sugar Land is home to the second-largest economic activities and third-largest city in the metropolitan area. Sugar Land has the most important and booming economic center in Fort Bend County. The city holds the Imperial Sugar (its namesake), Nalco/Exxon and Western Airways headquarters. Engineering firms and other related industries have managed to take the place as an economic engine.

Houston's concentration of consular offices ranks third in the nation, with 86 countries represented. Many of these countries are in Latin America and South America, including Mexico. Houston has a sizable Hispanic community, with the third-largest Hispanic and third-largest Mexican-American populations in the United States, including over 400,000 illegal immigrants.Hispanics also have large population bases in a number of suburbs, most notably Pasadena and Rosenberg, whose Hispanic populations make up the majority of these cities. Greater Houston is also home to a large and growing Asian-American population, including the third largest Vietnamese-American community in the U.S. It also has a large Filipino-American community as well, the fifth largest in the nation.

CNN/Money and Money magazine have recognized cities in the Greater Houston area the past three years as part of its 100 Best Places to Live in the United States. In 2005, Sugar Land, southwest of Houston in northeast Fort Bend County, was ranked 46th in the nation, and one of only three Texas cities among the Top 100. In 2006, the magazine recognized Sugar Land again, this time as the third best city on its list. Also making the 2006 list were League City (65th) in northern Galveston County and The Woodlands (73rd) in southern Montgomery County. In 2007, another Houston suburb, Friendswood made the list ranked 51st in the nation. It should be noted that the 2006 list only includes cities with at least 50,000 residents and that the 2007 list contains only cities with less than 50,000 residents.

Greater Houston is widely noted for its ethnic diversity and strong international community. The Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network ranks Houston as a Gamma World City (minor world city), and also one point shy of being a Beta World City (which would make Houston a major world city). Houston ranks with six points, the highest in the Gamma category along with Washington, D.C., Boston and its cross-state arch rival, Dallas.

Houston’s freeway system includes 575.5 miles (926.2 km) of freeways and expressways in the 10-county metro area. The State of Texas plans to spend $5.06 billion on Houston area highways between 2002 and 2007. Houston freeways are heavily traveled and often under construction to meet the demands of continuing growth.

The Greater Houston area has a hub-and-spoke freeway structure with multiple loops. The innermost is Interstate 610, forming approximately a 10-mile (20 km) diameter loop around downtown. The roughly square "Loop 610" is quartered into "North Loop," "South Loop," "West Loop," and "East Loop." The roads of Beltway 8 and their freeway core, the Sam Houston Tollway, are the next loop, at a diameter of roughly 25 miles (40 km). A proposed highway project, State Highway 99 (The Grand Parkway), would form a third loop outside of Houston. Currently, the completed portion of State Highway 99 runs from just north of Interstate 10, west of Houston, to U.S. Highway 59 in Sugar Land, southwest of Houston, and was completed in 1994. The next portion to be constructed is from the current terminus at U.S. Highway 59 to State Highway 288 in Brazoria County. Freeways also include the Westpark Tollway, which runs from U.S. Hwy 59 to Texas Hwy 99 and the Fort Bend Parkway, which runs from U.S. Hwy 90-A to Texas Hwy 6 in Missouri City.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas, or METRO, provides public transportation in the form of buses, trolleys, and lift vans.

METRO began running light rail service (METRORail) on January 1, 2004. Currently the track is rather short—it runs about 8 miles (13 km) from Downtown Houston to the Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park. Still the Red Line is traveled by about 45,000 people daily, giving it the second highest ridership per track mile in the nation. METRO's various forms of public transportation still do not connect many of the suburbs to the greater city, causing Houstonians to rely on the automobile as a primary source of transportation. Prior to the opening of METRORail, Houston was the largest city in the United States devoid of a rail transit system by a very large margin.

Following a successful referendum held locally in 2004, METRO is currently in the beginning design phases of a 10-year expansion plan to add five more sections to connect to the current rail system. An 8.3 mile (13.4 km) expansion has been approved to run the service from Uptown (the Galleria area) through Texas Southern University, ending at the University of Houston campus.

Houston's largest airport (and Texas's second-largest), George Bush Intercontinental Airport, is located in north Houston. Continental Airlines is headquartered in Downtown Houston. The southeast of Houston has William P. Hobby Airport, the second-largest commercial passenger airport. Houston's third-largest airport is Ellington Field, which houses several National Guard and Air National Guard units, as well as a United States Coast Guard air station and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center's fleet of jets that are used to train astronauts. Sugar Land, southwest of Houston, has the Sugar Land Regional Airport. Sugar Land Regional is the fourth-largest airport in the metropolitan area and the only general reliever airport in the southwest sector.

Amtrak provides intercity rail service to the Houston station.

Historically, politics in the Greater Houston area are divided between the Republican and Democratic parties.

The city of Houston itself has historically voted Democratic except for its affluent western and west-central portions, including the River Oaks, Westchase, Memorial and Uptown/Post Oak areas, as well as the Kingwood and Clear Lake City master-planned communities on Houston's far northeast and southeast sides, respectively. All these areas favor and are almost entirely represented both in Congress and in the Texas Legislature by Republicans. Democrats' strongest areas are within Loop 610, and also in the largely poor and minority northern, eastern and southern portions of Houston. Most of these areas have sizable Hispanic populations, though some northern and southern parts of the city have notable African-American communities. Democrats are also stronger the more liberal Montrose neighborhood, which is home to a large artist and LGBT community, and Alief, which houses a sizable Asian-American population. In 2008, almost every county in the region voted for Republican John McCain, however only Harris County was won by Democrat President Barack Obama by a small margin (51%-49%). Galveston has long been a staunch Democratic stronghold, with the most active Democratic county establishment in the state.

Houston's two most notable congressional districts are the 7th congressional district, which comprises much of west Houston, and the 18th congressional district, which includes downtown Houston.

Houston is home to four NCAA Division I programs. The University of Houston and Rice University play in Division I-A and both belong to Conference USA. Both schools were also once part of the Southwest Conference. Texas Southern University, which is a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, plays in Division I-AA. Houston Baptist University currently plays in NCAA Division 1 as an independent in its first probationary year as part of their readmission into Division 1. Rice and Houston Baptist are widely noted for their student-athlete graduation rates, which number at 91% for Rice (tied for highest in the nation courtesy of a 2002 Sports Illustrated issue on best college sports programs) and 80% for HBU.

Greater Houston plays home to various sporting events. The most notable is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is the world's largest livestock exhibition and rodeo event. Other events of importance to Greater Houston include the Shell Houston Open (PGA Tour), the Houston Marathon, and the Texas Bowl college football bowl game. Houston has also played host to two Super Bowls (VIII) and (XXXVIII), the 2005 World Series, the 2004 MLB All-Star Game, and the 2006 NBA All-Star Game. Houston has also played host to various high school and college sporting events, including the Big 12 Championship Game and will host the 2011 NCAA Men's Final Four. Houston was also considered a candidate for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

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Houston Independent School District

Houston ISD West Region Office

The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is the largest public school system in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States. Houston ISD serves as a community school district for most of the city of Houston and several nearby and insular municipalities.

Houston ISD was established in the 1920s, after the Texas Legislature voted to separate school and municipal governments. Houston ISD replaced the Harrisburg School District.

Houston ISD absorbed portions of the White Oak Independent School District in 1937 and portions of the Addicks Independent School District after its dissolution.

Houston ISD was desegregated by 1970. Some Hispanics felt they were being discriminated against when they were being put with only African Americans as part of the desegregation plan, so many took their children out of the schools and put them in "huelgas," or protest schools, until a ruling in 1973 satisfied their demands.

In 1994, after superintendent Frank Petruzielo left the district, the school district voted 6-1 to make Yvonne Gonzalez the interim superintendent; the school district board members described this as a "symbolic" motion as Gonzalez was the first Hispanic interim superintendent. Gonzalez served until Rod Paige became the superintendent.

In 1977, group of citizens in western Houston tried to form Westheimer Independent School District out of a portion of Houston ISD. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected the appeals after formation of the district was denied.

HISD once served the Harris County portion of Stafford, until the Stafford Municipal School District was established in 1982 to serve the entire city of Stafford. Most of Stafford was in Fort Bend ISD, with a small amount in Houston ISD.

A 2003 The New York Times report which asserted that HISD did not report school violence to the police created controversy in the community as teachers, students, and parents expressed concern about the district's downplaying of campus violence. HISD officials held a news conference after the publication of the story. During the conference, HISD asserted that The New York Times published the story in an attempt to discredit the Bush administration's new accountability standards for school districts nationwide, which were partly modeled after HISD's system.

HISD's performance in the late 1990s and 2000s was dubbed the "Houston Miracle" by the media. A 2003 state audit of HISD's performance caused more controversy. One of the district's most publicized accomplishments during the Paige era was a dramatic reduction in dropout rates. When 16 secondary schools, including Sharpstown High School, were audited, it was found that most of the students who left school from those schools in 2000-2001 should have been counted as dropouts, but were not. It was found that the administrators at Sharpstown deliberately changed the dropout rate at the school. The Sharpstown controversy resulted in a recommendation to label the entire HISD as "unacceptable." Former Sharpstown Assistant Principal Robert Kimball, found by an external investigator to have been involved in the false reporting, asserts that HISD coerced administrators at many schools to lie on dropout rates. HISD asserts that the fraud is only contained to Sharpstown, and that the false statistics at other schools were caused by confusion related to the state's system of tracking students who leave school. An article in The New York Times disputed the accuracy and usage of survey figures from Yates High School and Sharpstown High School indicating that close to 100% of the students intended to attend universities.

In 2005, HISD enrolled evacuees from the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina who were residing in Houston. The Houston Astrodome, the shelter used for hurricane evacuees, is located within the HISD boundaries.

Many Katrina evacuees stayed for the long term within the Houston ISD boundaries. Walnut Bend Elementary School's enrollment increased from around 600 to around 800 with the addition of 184 evacuees; Walnut Bend, out of all of the Houston-area elementary schools, took the most Katrina victims . Nearby Paul Revere Middle School, located in the Westchase district, gained 137 Katrina victims. Revere, out of all of the Houston-area middle schools, has taken in the most Katrina victims.

Houston ISD's "West Region," which includes Walnut Bend and Revere, had about 1/5th of Houston ISD's schools but contained more than half of the 5,500 evacuees in Houston schools.

At the start of the 2006-2007 school year, around 2,900 Hurricane Katrina evacuees were still enrolled in Houston ISD schools. Around 700 of them were held back due to poor academic performance. 41% of evacuee 10th graders and 52% of evacuee juniors were held back.

On December 1, 1994, HISD board members voted to divide HISD into 12 numbered geographic districts; of eleven districts, each district had one to three high schools. The 12th district was an alternative district.

Prior to Summer 2005, HISD had 13 administrative districts. Originally, the number of districts were to be cut to three, but HISD decided on cutting the number to five in fall 2005.

Houston ISD's administration building from July 1970 to March 2006 was the Hattie Mae White Administration Building (located at 3830 Richmond Avenue), and was labelled the "Taj Mahal" due to the confusing layout of the complex. The 201,150-square-foot (18,687 m2) complex cost six million United States dollars. The building had tropical indoor atriums, causing critics to criticize the spending priorities of the district. When the district considered cutting a popular kindergarten program for financial reasons, taxpayers voted many board members out of office.

The administration moved into a new complex in northwest Houston (located at 4400 West 18th Street) in spring 2006. The district sold the old complex for $38 million to a company which plans to demolish the site and develop mixed-use commercial property; demolition began on September 14, 2006. Demolition crews demolished the Will Rogers Elementary School, an adjacent elementary school located at 3101 Weslayan that closed in spring 2006.

Houston ISD named the new administration building "Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center".

The preliminary fall enrollment for the 2006-2007 school year (203,163) had 7,000 fewer students than the 2005-2006 student enrollment (210,202), resulting in a more than 3% loss; the 2006-2007 enrollment was a 2.5% decrease from the fall 2004-2005 enrollment (208,454). From the preliminary 2006-2007 student count, the West and Central regions lost the most students, with a combined 4,400 student loss. The enrollment reported for the year in February 2007 was 202,936.

In 2007 the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Communications Commission, and the United States Department of Justice began an investigation probing business relationships between Micro Systems Enterprises, a vendor, and HISD. Frankie Wong, former president of Micro Systems, and two Dallas Independent School District administrators received criminal charges.

In the 2000s HISD established "Breakfast in the Classroom." The program was replaced with a free breakfast program based in cafeterias. The Houston Press published a story about accounting irregularities regarding a program; the State of Texas announced it would investigate the program. On February 4, 2005, Abelardo Saavedra announced that the program was suspended. By 2006 HISD resumed its free breakfast programs.

HISD is highly regarded for the bilingual education of its predominantly Hispanic student body, including recruiting about 330 teachers from Mexico, Spain, Central and South America, Puerto Rico, China, and the Philippines from 1998 to 2007.

Magnet schools began in the 1970s as a way to voluntarily racially integrate schools. By the mid-1990s many magnet schools no longer held this goal and instead focused on improving educational quality of schools.

HISD's magnet (Performing Arts, Science, Health Professions, Law Enforcement, etc) high schools are considered a model for other urban school districts as a way to provide a high quality education and keep top performing students in the inner city from fleeing to private schools or exurban school districts. Magnet schools are popular with parents and students that wish to escape low-performing schools and school violence. The members of the administration of schools losing students to higher-performing campuses, such as Bill Miller of Yates High School, complained about the effects .

There are 55 elementary magnet schools, 30 magnet middle schools, and 27 magnet high schools. Some magnet schools are mixed comprehensive and magnet programs, while others are solidly magnet and do not admit any "neighborhood" students.

In February 2008, Houston ISD reported a total enrollment of 199,534 .

As of 2008, the superintendent of Houston ISD is Abelardo Saavedra.

Other members include: Diana Dávila, Greg Meyers, Dianne Johnson, and Manuel Rodríguez Jr..

Former HISD superintendent Rod Paige used the PEER Program. Improving scores from its schools have caused a lot of praise from others nationwide. Kaye Stripling took over when Rod Paige headed to Washington, DC as part of United States President George W. Bush's administration cabinet. After Stripling stepped down as the interim Superintendent, Abelardo Saavedra became the superintendent of the district on December 9, 2004.

Schools in Houston ISD are organized into "Regional Districts". Each district has its own Regional Superintendent.

Houses in the Houston ISD area get the Houston ISD channel on cable .

The district covers much of the greater-Houston area, including all of the cities of Bellaire, West University Place,. Southside Place, and most of the area within the Houston city limits. HISD also takes students from the Harris County portion of Missouri City, a portion of Jacinto City, a small portion of Hunters Creek Village, a small portion of Piney Point Village, and a small portion of Pearland. HISD also takes students from unincorporated areas of Harris County. The district covers 300.2 square miles (778 km2) of land.

All of the HISD area lies within the taxation area for the Houston Community College System.

HISD also covers unincorporated sections of Harris County.

Houston ISD grants school bus transportation to any Houston ISD resident attending his or her zoned school or attending a magnet program who lives 2 mi (3.2 km) or more away from the campus (as measured by the nearest public roads) or must cross treacherous obstacles in order to reach the campus. Certain special education students are also permitted to use school bus transportation.

Prior to fall 2007, METRO issued Go Card passes for students enrolled in schools. Since fall 2007, METRO instead issues rechargeable cards called "Q Card"s for students.

In HISD grades kindergarten through 5 are considered to be elementary school, grades 6 through 8 are considered to be middle school, and grades 9 through 12 are considered to be high school. Some elementary schools go up to the sixth grade.

Every house in HISD is assigned to an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school. HISD has many alternative programs and transfer options available to students who want a specialized education and/or dislike their home schools.

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Source : Wikipedia