Roaming among the dinosaurs and gemstones, hundreds of guests turned out Saturday to help The Fort Bend Star celebrate its 40th anniversary with a special event at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land.
Scattered among the exhibits were nearly 30 vendors with booths offering a variety of products and services. As a gift to guests, the Star gave away special T-shirts. There were also food trucks out front and bounce houses for children out back. As an unannounced bonus, U.S. Rep. Pete Olson appeared and delivered a Congressional proclamation commending the Star on its anniversary.
It was 1978 when a “West Texas broad” named Beverly Carter published the first edition of a weekly newspaper called The Southwest Star.
Today The Fort Bend Southwest Star, commonly called The Fort Bend Star, serves a community vastly different than the small towns that dotted Fort Bend County in 1978 when Carter set out on a mission to “provide news of local events, meetings, and honors, and to provide a media through which local businessmen and merchants can reach the consumer.”
Sugar Land, Missouri City, Stafford, and other communities of eastern Fort Bend County have grown and changed significantly since the launch of the Star, but the newspaper’s mission has never changed.
“We pride ourselves on being a free publication. We love delivering a product to our readers and doing it for the sake of keeping our community informed,” said Jonathan McElvy, who, with Frank Vasquez, purchased the Star last year and have been publishing it since 2014.
When Carter began printing the paper from an office at the corner of Murphy Road and Highway 90A, she began with a staff of 10, including herself, her children Michael Fredrickson and Sherry Nitsch, and seven other women, mostly former teachers and many of them Texas Tech alumna.
“We hate to admit it, and it is probably not very professional to do so, but we feel it is our duty to inform you that the SOUTHWEST STAR is the latest in a long succession of hare-brained money-making schemes that the group pictured above has attempted. We only hope it will not be as ill fated as some of the others,” Carter wrote in her first opinion piece, written as an introduction of the staff.
Eventually she penned a regular column called Bev’s Burner, where she kept the heat on local politicians and the pressing issues of the day.
Carter passed away in 2013, recognized statewide as a pioneer for women in journalism with a reputation for her dogged pursuit of the truth and accountability in local government.
“She was feisty, determined and unflappable in her quest to give the community a voice in their government. She started the newspaper by pounding the streets, council chambers, government offices and beer joints of Fort Bend to bring her readers some insight into their community through her fledgling newspaper,” the Star wrote in an obituary.
As the Star rose in prominence in the community, Carter branched out. She started the Fort Bend Business Journal in 1982 and in the 1990s she launched the Fort Bend Community TV cable channel as well as Star Digital Studios, a video production company, which was operated by her daughter until her untimely death from pneumonia in 2011.
Carter and the Star won numerous state and national awards over the years, with the halls and walls of the former office on Techniplex Drive covered with plaques and certificates and numerous others stuffed in boxes and tucked into corners.
“County residents have consistently been able to obtain in-depth reporting from the straight shooting Carter, along with her unique take on politics, policy, community, religion and virtually any other subject that intrigued her. Known for her strong sense of public integrity, Bev and her ‘Star’ reporters pounded the pavement in Fort Bend to bring their readers insightful and concise information about their community,” the newspaper wrote in Carter’s obituary. “News without spin was the norm from Carter, and her investigative reporting brought much notoriety to the small, community newspaper that grew into a staple of the Fort Bend community.”
On occasion, Carter made the news, having been interviewed for the television shows “48 Hours” and “Nightline.” She also filmed a segment for Discovery ID’s “Behind Mansion Walls.” The episode aired shortly after her passing.
Over the years, the Star changed with technology. From its early days as a of leeway. But the state of Texas is not exercising strong enough controls,” Mears said.
According to Mears, the state essentially told the garbage company, “we don’t need the high cost of permits and inspectors. We trust you to moderate yourself.”
There is a reason Republic Service has the cheapest rates, said Mears.
After thousands of complaints from residents about the smells, an enforcement team from the state capital of Austin investigated. He said TCEQ “only looked back a year and a half, and every single quarter of self-monitoring, the landfill failed every single event. They violated federal rules,” said Mears, claiming they were fined thousands of dollars.
For Mears, the question isn’t should homes be near the landfill.
“If you are a business, you don’t have the right to pollute land next to it. You don’t have the right to pollute your neighbor’s house.”
In filing suit against the landfill owners, the city of Pearland said it wants the organization to fix the mess next door. They said they are not trying to close down the business.
“The City of Pearland requests this court to issue a temporary restraining order, a temporary injunction and a permanent injunction, ordering BRL to immediately cease and desist all of its illegal activity described herein, and mandating BRL to immediately correct the defects in design and operation of the site that have allowed the nuisance odor to persist unabated.”