Sunday, January 13, 2008

Houston Demands It: Chronicle’s Teen Columnist MUST Stop Her Shameless Huckstering on Behalf of Charles Bacarisse

Yes, this is “olds” as the funsters over at blogHouston call anything that’s been hanging around longer than 15 minutes, but then again we’re “old” and our reflexes are diminished and we’ve been beset by persistent problems in accessing the Internet since our 13-year-old went to the site Besides, as we told our wife about this “repainting the kitchen” project we were to finish over the holidays, we get around to things in our own time.

What has us looking back to those long-forgotten days of last week is yet another vexing work from the Houston Chronicle’s stable of Metro columnists (a smallish stable, housing two, we believe). We’re not referring to the Rick Casey column of Jan. 8, 2008, wherein he reported that Texas Democrats were “giddy” over the prospect of Barack Obama becoming their presidential nominee. This column read as if were written based on pollsters’ forecast of an Obama victory in the New Hampshire primary, and it appeared on the same day that the paper’s front page carried news (or “olds”) of Hillary Clinton’s unexpected besting of the Illinois senator in that contest. According to unreliable sources, Mr. Casey had tucked himself in early on Monday evening and could not be roused to adjust his work when things didn’t pan out as predicted. Another explanation, one we’ll attribute to “observers,” is that the old boy "just doesn’t care." Whatever the case, we certainly don’t hold this column against him: As noted above, we’re not really into “timeliness” our self.

So, no, it isn’t Casey’s “Dewey Beats Truman” moment that has us in a nostalgic mood, but rather the following day’s offering from Chronicle stablemate Lisa Falkenberg, who seems to be brazenly using her column to promote the candidacy of District Clerk Charles Bacarisse in the Republican primary for Harris County judge. How else to explain Falkenberg’s reporting that Bacarisse has been calling on the Harris County Hospital District to press “sponsors” (that is, family members) of documented (that is, legal) immigrants for payment of delinquent bills that the immigrants have run up with the district. (Imagine that: a politician who wants people to pay their bills to a government agency! Outrageous!) As Falkenberg notes

a decade-old federal law allows the hospital district to hit up [a legal immigrant’s] sponsor for the money, under certain circumstances.
… it is true that each sponsor signs an "affidavit of support" promising to take financial responsibility for immigrant family members in an attempt to keep them off the dole, so to speak.
So to speak. But Falkenberg is a wily sort. Employing the craft and cunning she honed as the star columnist of the newspaper’s Yo! page (we think that's right), she brilliantly disguises her shameless promotion of Bacarisse as criticism. We’ll turn it over to Falkenberg here (’cause we’re up for no further paraphrasing, due to the fact that we’re actually lazier than Rick Casey). Referring to an earlier column she had written "attacking" Bacarisse for, as she put it, “attacking documented immigrants,” Falkenberg writes

After a few months of reflection, and recent developments on the issue, I have determined that I erred — not in my criticism of Bacarisse, but in not kicking him more swiftly in the rear the first time I took him to task.

It still seems that his focus on this issue has more to do with polls, political hot buttons and winning over a group of voters whose blood boils at the mere mention of the word "immigrant," than it does with his concern for taxpayers and good public policy.

Turning to the supposed matter at hand---sponsors’ failure to keep their commitment to support family members---she continues

Bacarisse has accused these "deadbeat sponsors" of shirking their duties and has taken aim at the county for not beating down the doors of these sponsors to recoup the money. Months ago, when I queried county officials about the problems Bacarisse had cited, they had no idea what he was talking about.

But Bacarisse's campaign asked the hospital district to tally the net cost of care provided to documented immigrants since 2005. The grand total — about $263 million, a substantial sum, though much less than the cost for illegal immigrants and only a fraction of the cost for citizens, who received more than $1 billion in free care over the same period.

Last month, Bacarisse issued a news release, touting those statistics and singing his own praises for getting results.

"Hospital District starts process for recovering funds and enforcing the law," read part of a headline.

Indeed, because of Bacarisse's inquiry, the hospital district has requested from immigration officials a database of sponsors so they can begin hunting down the sponsors to collect the money. They're just now beginning this process. So, it turns out the "deadbeat sponsors" probably weren't even asked to help pay the doctor bills before they were deemed to be shirking their duties.

This is terrible … the guy’s getting results and he hasn’t been elected yet.

As for Falkenberg, we have determined that she is more than qualified to flaunt her make-believe moral hauteur by virtue of the fact that, according to appraisal district records, she owns no property in Harris County, at least under the name that she affixes to her columns, and thus pays no taxes to support the Harris County Hospital District (NOT ONE GODDAMN DIME). It also appears she is not registered to vote in the county, although there’s still time for her to get her name on the rolls so she can vote for Bacarisse (assuming she hasn’t gone giddy for Obama, and is actually a legal resident of the jurisdiction). Talk about commitment.

We’re pretty sure Bacarisse isn’t paying Falkenberg to write these columns, but we hope he’ll be listing them as in-kind contributions on his next campaign finance disclosure (estimated value: $3.73).

1 comment:

IJ Reilly said...

I don't she talked about herself enough in that last column.

How does she feel about it as a redhead? What would her father think? Where were she and her fiance shopping when they heard the news?

Houston demands answers.