Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stein Watch: The Holiday Week in Stein

Shortly after launching our much-ballyhooed and universally applauded Bob Stein Watch we realized that we may have gnawed off more than our occasionally tetchy tummy is capable of digesting. It would take a battalion (or two) of researchers, working night and day, to keep abreast of the many Bartlett’s-ready quotations and public appearances/pronouncements of the noted Rice University political scientist. We are but a one-man, close-to-the-ground, volunteer operation and most likely will prove woefully inadequate for the task. But in for a dime, in for dollar, as the saying goes, so without further ado we present what we hope will be a full and complete Stein Watch for the week of 12-27-09 through 01-02-10 (barring any surprise guest commentaries by Bob Stein at half times of upcoming bowl games):

Dec. 29: The professor, identified as “Bob Stein, Channel 11 political expert,” makes a brief appearance––we’re talking all of 10 seconds––in the middle of a report on Kay Bailey Hutchison’s “new transportation plan.” Stein apparently was on hand for English-language translation, saying something close to this:
“I think that what Senator Hutchison was saying is that if you don't like transportation, blame TxDOT, and if you’re gonna blame TxDOT, blame the man who made all the appointments to that commission.”
(As Channel 11 reporter Lee McGuire noted, although not in these exact words, a major plank of the Hutchison plan is to stomp on the dessicated carcass of the Trans-Texas Corridor.)

Dec. 29: Outgoing Mayor Bill White announces a new commission to study the city’s term limit provisions, with appointees to include, among the other usual suspects, the husband of the mayor's agenda director, Robert M. Stein of Rice Univeristy. (Appointments to such august bodies apparently rate the formal “Robert,” while Channel 11 must prefer the folksier, TV-friendly "Bob" for its political commentary.)

Stein fans across the Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area were moved to wonder whether this appointment will pose a conflict that will prevent Our Man Bob from publicly declaiming on the term-limits issue.

Time, as always, will tell.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One for the Home Team!

After reading the Dec. 22 dispatch in the Houston Chronicle by Bernardo Fallas, the reporter who covers the Houston Dynamo for the daily newspaper, our first thought was, “This Bernardo Fallas must have a sister who works for the Dynamo organization.”

No, no. We’re the ingenuous, naive sort, and such a connection wouldn’t naturally occur to us, at least during our waking hours. We just thought Fallas’s story was overly generous in detailing the arguments of the Dynamo management and Major League Soccer as to why “soccer-specific” stadiums and the necessity of the franchises “controlling revenue streams” are the keys to growing the domestic MLS to “compete with the best leagues in Europe and South America.” But that’s just our opinion, and opinions are like ... well, you know what they say.

The timing of the story also struck us as a bit suspicious, coming just 10 days after a mayoral election in which Dynamo president Oliver Luck and the team ownership, in the individual and corporate persons of California billionaire Philip Anshutz, Brener Sports and Entertainment of Beverly Hills and ex-boxing champ Oscar de la Hoya, put their money on the wrong pony. As Fallas himself put it:
...the Dynamo — whose move to Houston in late 2005 was due, in large part, to local government’s receptiveness to the idea of a public-private partnership for a soccer stadium in the Bayou City — wait for negotiations with the city of Houston and Harris County to resume after the recent mayoral election brought them to a standstill.
A cynical sort––not us, though––might believe that a little prodding in the daily paper would help move matters along.

As it turns out, of course, Fallas does have a sister who works for the Dynamo, a connection first brought to our attention by eagle-eyed Anne Linehan of blogHouston, who pointed to the similarity in the last names of the Chronicle reporter and Ana B. Fallas-Scarborough, listed as the Dynamo’s executive assistant/HR rep (true, not a high-level, policy-making position). Benardo Fallas confirmed the relationship for us, assured us it had no bearing on the story in question or his coverage in general, and told us it that “to insinuate otherwise would be both imprudent and an insult to my professionalism as a journalist.”

OK, imprudent is our middle name (actually, our middle initial is M. and our last name is Prudent, which is German, so heavy accent on the first syllable), but since Mr. Fallas promptly and graciously responded to our inquiry, thus freeing us to get on with the business of returning ill-fitting Christmas gifts, we’ll turn this space over to him for extended elaboration:
I informed my superiors the moment I learned my sister was being considered for a job with the team. Since the decision was to keep me on the beat, we have strived to maintain a healthy professional distance.

I sense you (or some of your readers)* may have an issue (and understandably so) with MLS' and the team's argument that teams need to control revenue streams in order to "make it."

The argument that MLS teams need to control revenue streams to become financially viable enterprises is one made time and again by teams and league (as well as teams in other pro leagues). It is the first answer you would get if you called Oliver Luck or Don Garber and asked them why an MLS team needs a stadium.

What I did is I presented that argument while noting that there's opposition to the idea of the Dynamo having public help in their pursuit of a stadium.

I was asked by my superiors to write about the emergence of MLS stadiums and how that relates to the Dynamo, and I think I did just that.
Mr. Fallas strikes us as an earnest and thoughtful young man trying to make his way in the world, but these unnamed superiors of his are doing him and their newspaper a disservice if they are aware of the sibling connection and are still assigning him to do a story on what essentially is a political issue that arouses considerable hostility on both sides. (As we noted to Fallas, even his reporting of games, team personnel moves and other non-political matters might come into question if he and the daily newspaper actually had any competition and there was another reporter from another organization assigned as a Dynamo beat reporter. Fallas later informed us that he doubles-up at the Chronicle as both a copy editor and soccer reporter; we’d caution him against over-excelling at either of these jobs, lest he wind up also shouldering the paper’s transportation beat while passing his off-evenings as a part-time society columnist.)

On a semi-related note, since the negotiations over the new soccer-specific stadium appear to hinge on Harris County’s agreement to participate in a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, the Chronicle reported on Wednesday that the outgoing City Council voted expand the Midtown TIRZ by 8 acres to include “the Asia House, the Buffalo Soldiers Museum and the Museum of African-American culture.” Kind of an interesting farewell of sorts, since we were under the impression that the departing mayor was not exactly a fan of the TIRZ mechanism (one of the good things about him, in our inconsequential book) and the incoming one most pointedly made an issue of not expending tax dollars, or too many tax dollars, on “museums” and “stadiums” and the like in this time of, um, fiscal austerity.

The version of the story in our damp home-delivered edition was all of 3 paragraphs and unbylined, but the online version included this seen-it-comin’-a-mile-away graf:
Councilman James Rodriguez, while supporting the changes, said he wanted to see plans for development of a Latino heritage museum within the same zone in Midtown.
We only hope that we can raise the money, and find a suitable and affordable location within the Midtown TIRZ, to get our planned Museum for the Study and Furtherance of Peckerwood Culture up and running in time to take advantage of the “$5 million in improvements to cultural and public facilities.”

By the way, possibly because of some apparent oversight neither this story nor Mr. Fallas's Dec. 22 work included a quote from Bob Stein.

*Mr. Fallas here makes the probably unsupportable supposition that we have readers, plural.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Beaumont: What Houston Should Aspire to Be

It may be some years before Beaumont elects a gay mayor. And while residents there can rightly take pride in the Babe Didrikson Zaharias* Park, they have no poopy-precious downtown development tool such as Discovery Green of which to boast. There appears to be but one standalone Starbucks in the entirety of Beaumont, and the city’s nightlife opportunities have been much diminished since the Red Carpet Inn burned down many years ago. Yet there is one place where Beaumont has it all over Houston. According to what is no doubt the handiwork of some internationally recognized advertising and marketing genius, Beaumont has the cleanest restrooms in Texas. That, anyway, is what a billboard somewhere west of Beaumont proclaims.

It is possible that this message has been greeting visitors for many months, if not years, and we had previously missed it. We usually keep our eyes on the road and our hands upon the wheel, but last week we were riding shotgun and happened to be wide awake as our jolly caravan approached Jefferson County. We were just sorry that we had no pressing need to avail our self of a public toilet at that particular point in our journey.

Our personal knowledge of Beaumont’s public facilities is scant and much dated––we’re better acquainted with those in Vidor––yet we have no reason at all to disbelieve the town’s haughty claim to superiority. It was, after all, on a billboard.

We ask: Can Houston offer the same assurances to the road-weary traveler?

*A real person of notable accomplishment––if you can't identify her and at least two of the sports at which she excelled, please pack your things and go back to whereever it is you came from ASAP.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

¿Dónde Está Bob?

Since hardly a day seems to go by when Bob Stein doesn’t show up in either the Houston Chronicle or on Channel 11 pontificating on some subject or another, we at Slampo’s Place are launching yet another invaluable public service by inaugurating our Bob Stein Watch so that fans of the Rice University political scientist can keep up with his many and varied utterances with a minimum of exertion. Our first installment finds Dr. Bob dispensing the conventional wisdom down in the middle of a Christmas Eve story by the Chronicle’s Stewart M. Powell, which relayed the startling news that one of our two Republican senators, John Cornyn, is turning into slightly less of a hypocrite because of his chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In this one, the regular-guy “Bob” is supplanted by the formal “Robert,” perhaps because the story was written out of Washington D.C. by a reporter who uses his middle initial in his byline or perhaps because a house style and uniform editing are two of the many fusty journalism traditions that have been jettisoned by the daily newspaper in this age of diminished resources and It Girl society columnists. Anyway, here’s Bob:
The senator is “caught in a terrible pickle,” says Rice University political scientist Robert Stein, co-author of Perpetuating the Pork Barrel. “Legislators’ support back home usually lies with their ability to take care of constituents. But Republicans’ anti-spending campaign puts that at risk.”
Ahh, that was so good we wanna play it again:
The senator is “caught in a terrible pickle,” says Rice University political scientist Robert Stein, co-author of Perpetuating the Pork Barrel. “Legislators’ support back home usually lies with their ability to take care of constituents. But Republicans’ anti-spending campaign puts that at risk.”
It is possible, even probable, that Doc Stein has made more recent appearances in the local media since Christmas Eve, but we have been in Louisiana for the past three days, well beyond the internationally recognized Bob Stein Zone.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas, Aloysius: The Newly Elected Houston City Councilman from Brazoria County Just Doesn't Want to Talk About It

Thanks to the able reportage of the Chronicle's Mike Snyder, we now have a fuller portrait of Houston councilman-elect Al Hoang, who, as noted in this space recently, did not legally meet the residency requirement to run for the District F seat he won on Dec. 12 and whose campaign finance reports don't exactly fulfill the legal requirements demanded of these disclosures. The picture ain't that pretty at all. (Up high and for the record: Snyder contacted us before publication of his story and we requested that this humble blog be left out of it, based mostly on the timeless "What's in it for us?" calculation but also not to detract from the serious nature of the enterprise.*)

What's truly amazing about Snyder's story––aside from the pathetic defense of Hoang offered by county Republican chairman Jared Woodfill, in yet another manifestation of the tiresome partisanship that now infests local municipal politics**––was Hoang's refusal to even discuss the residency issue with the reporter. First, he apparently issued a Gary Hart-like challenge to Snyder to "prove it," then hung up the phone when the reporter contacted him later after meeting the challenge. Think about that: A newly elected public official flat-out refuses to discuss legitimate issues of concern raised by the public record with the city's leading daily newspaper. We know the power of the printed press is much diminished, but this is not a real politic way to begin a career as an elected officeholder (hopefully, one of very short duration).

Instead of trying to come up with some half-assed explanation, Hoang resorted to the first refuge of the scoundrel, telling the newspaper, "You're trying to pick on me." We can only surmise that the unstated reasoning was "Because I'm Vietnamese." This is the sort of matter that inevitably ends up with one set of white people calling another set of white people racists. Watch.
So what is to be done? Oh, the new Houston City Council could actually do something about it, but won't, for at least five reasons we can think of, starting with, "We don't want to be bothered with this." Perhaps another elected official with subpoena power wouldn't feel as constrained by political sensitivities. Or perhaps she would. At the very least, Hoang should be subjected to unceasing public embarrassment, as well as a stiff fine from the Texas Ethics Commission for his campaign finance reports (which he, a lawyer, weirdly insisted to the Chronicle met the requirements of the law, which they clearly don't).

In the meantime, we extend our sincerest wishes to Aloysius Hoang and family for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We just hope Santa Claus can sort through the confusion and alight at the correct address, whether it's 2702 Sunfish Dr. in Pearland, or 10001 Westpark Dr., Apt. 83, in Houston City Council District G, or 4403 Bugle Dr in Houston City Council District F, or....

To be continued.

*More for the record: While we did vote for Mike Laster, Hoang's runoff opponent, we have had no contact whatsoever with Laster or anyone connected with him, and he wouldn't know us if he ran over us with a shopping cart at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.
**Yes, Democrats have gotten much worse about this, but then again there are a lot more Democrats than Republicans in the city limits.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hidden Houston: A City With A Long, Proud Though Heretofore Undocumented History of Electing Gay Mayors

Slampo’s Place interrupts its ongoing Al Hoang coverage to bring you this exclusive interview with Hampton Hardish, adjunct professor of history at South Dairy Ashford Community College and author of the possibly soon-to-be-published Houston: City of Gay Mayors. “We” in Houston have been convulsed in an orgy of self-congratulation in the past week over the election of a lesbian as mayor––a historic development that has proved, beyond a doubt, that Houston is not the dusty cow-town full of yahoos they still believe us to be In New York City and Paris, France but rather the cosmopolitan, urbane and broad-minded place “we” have always known it to be. Hardish, however, claims that Annise Parker won’t be Houston’s first gay mayor, and that in fact the city has had many gay mayors, going back many years. Slampo’s Place under-assistant managing editor and executive vice-president Hidalgo Hidalgo caught up with Hardish yesterday for an interview that began at the Starbucks on Wilcrest and Highway 59 and concluded many hours later at a southwest Houston sports bar. Sr. Hidalgo asked only that we confirm, for the record, that he himself is not gay. “That would not be so good in my community,” he explained.

HH: So, man, you claiming that this Parker lady ain’t gonna be the first gay person to be mayor of this city. Is that right?

HH: Yes sir, that is correct.

HH: So who was the first gay mayor here?

HH: Actually, it all started with with Houston’s first mayor, James Sanders Holman. Back then “gay” simply meant “light-hearted or happy,” and the clinical term “homosexual” had not been coined. Most did not think of themselves as having one “sexual orientation” or the other but kind of played it as it laid. Many were straight, many were gay, some swung both ways. The bayou ran slow and lazy, the fish and wildlife were abundant.

HH. Nah, man. Go on, get outa here.

HH: It's true ... One of my graduate research assistants unearthed the diary of a French visitor to Houston in 1837 who wrote: “One of the charms of this fetid, mosquito-infested hellhole (perhaps the only charm) is seeing the mayor strolling the streets arm-in-arm with a strapping young rustic whom he calls ‘Carl,’ and whose wispy beard he gently strokes as the two wade through the thick chimney smoke and ankle-deep mud.”

HH: The fu....

HH: Yes, there it is.

HH: Okay, what about this guy, whatshisname, Oscar Holcombe?

HH: Not only was he Houston’s longest-serving mayor but Houston’s longest-serving gay mayor. He wasn’t called “the Old Gray Fox” because of his cunning and political acumen, but rather because he was considered, well, foxy. Back then, the city had only a couple off off-the-beaten-track “nelly” bars, and OGF, as he was known, frequented both of them.

HH: Aww, man––how you know that?

HH: I have it on good authority from Ray Hill, who as you know is either the MLK or the Robin Hood of the local gay-rights movement, and has been the mentor to any gay person of accomplishment in Houston for the past 35 years.

HH: So, he knew this Holcombe dude?

HH: Perhaps not. But he says he knows that Jesse Jones and others were uneasy about what they called the mayor’s “misadventures,” although Holcombe always made time for his “boys,” especially around the holidays.

HH: No way! What about your more modern mayors?

HH: Well, Kathy Whitmire was caught in a hot tub with Lily Tomilin ....

HH: Whoa––I thought that was that Ann Richards lady ....

HH: Well, possibly, her too. But Whitmire was unmarried, a widow. Draw your own conclusion.

HH: Who else?

HH: Well, Fred Hofheinz liked to dress in women’s clothes, and Jim MConn was known to “shake his bottom down to the ground” after-hours at many of the city’s gay disco clubs of the late‘70s and early ‘80s. Lee Brown, historians have now determined, was the model for the cop in the Village People ... and, oh yes, when Louie Welch suggested that we “shoot the queers,” this was well-understood in the gay community as meaning, “I’ll be down at the corner of Westheimer and Taft around 11:30 tonight, and I'll be needing a ride.” After his death, it was discovered that he had amassed a large, secret collection of antique patterned draperies.

HH: Aw, man. Next thing you’re gonna tell me is Bob Lanier was gay!

HH: Yes, that appears to be the case.

HH: Naw, man, he was a hoss! You ever check out his wife, that Elsie lady?

HH: I know this will be hard for many people to accept.

HH: Okay, professor, tell me: Has Houston ever had a mayor who wasn’t gay?

HH: Well, of course, Bill White is not gay,* and next year he has a good shot at becoming Texas’ first non-gay governor since Sam Houston.

HH: Beauford Jester was gay, too? Man, all this politics talk is makin’ my head hurt. You got any money?

HH: Some, yes.

HH: I know this bar, Bongo’s, we can get some beers, 2-for-1 at happy hour. Watch the fútbol.

HH: Yes, I’d like that. I enjoy experiencing other cultures.

HH: Uh, yeah. Listen, just don’t mention it to anybody there that you’re gay, okay?

HH: But I’m not gay.

HH: Yeah, whatevs. Gimme your keys. I’m drivin’.

*In the interest of disclosure, Prof. Hardish notes that his wife, two of his three children, his mother-in-law, a second cousin, and an “elderly aunt” all work for White in some capacity.

Friday, December 18, 2009

All Hail Aloysuis, Chapter II: District F Councilman-Elect Al Hoang Is a Big-Time Campaign Finance Scofflaw (No Doubt About It)

More from the public record (with annotations) regarding the newly elected city councilman from District F (Alief-Sharpstown), who, as we pointed out in our previous installment of what we expect will be a long-running series, apparently did not meet the residency requirement to run in the district and may not live there as of this moment (or maybe he does––either way, we’ll find out, ’cause it’s the holiday season):

1. The four campaign finance reports Hoang filed with the city make a mockery of the notion of “disclosure” and hardly conform to the spirit of the law, much less the letter. Hoang does not list a single date for any contribution he received, nor does he list a single occupation of even one donor (his defeated runoff opponent, Mike Laster, appears to have been fairly meticulous in listing occupations when so required; other candidates for city offices, including one who ran for mayor, were of course not so scrupulous). The Texas Election Code requires that campaign finance reports include the full names of contributors who give more than $50 as well the dates of the contributions. Additionally, the city requires inclusion of the “occupation and employer of each person making one or more political contributions that in the aggregate exceed $500 in a reporting period.”

2. By law, campaign finance reports are to cover a specific time period. For instance, the report candidates were to file on Oct. 5 covered the July 1-Sept. 24 period, the Oct. 24 report was to cover Sept. 25 through Oct. 24, etc. Not one of Hoang’s reports specifies a time period for the reported contributions and expenses. We hesitate to try to explain or even make an educated guess on exactly what Hoang intended, because these documents are so far afield from what is required by law, but it appears he was reporting the same line-item donations and expenses on more than one report. Again, that’s a guess, because it’s difficult to reconcile Hoang’s figures. (On his Oct. 5 report, apparently the first he filed, Hoang reported raising $20,875, spending $8442 and having $8,572 on hand, but his line-item expenses amount to only about $3,450.) The other possibility is that Hoang and at least one of his contributors violated the city’s $5,000 ceiling on contributions from individuals, because Hoang listed the one $5K gift he reported, from a Dong (or Duong) Hai of the 77036 zip code, on his reports of Oct. 30, Nov. 14 and Dec. 8. We suppose the councilman-elect isn’t dopey enough to report $10,000 in illegal contributions, but we don’t know the man. He obviously isn’t smart enough to figure out the relatively simple legal requirements of campaign finance reporting.

3. Then there’s the somewhat unusual if apparently not unprecedented practice of inflating both sides of the disclosure ledger by reporting some contributions as expenditures, or vice-versa. For instance, Hoang’s Oct. 30 report lists a $9,910 contribution from Ocean Palace, a restaurant at 11215 Bellaire Blvd. (we presume he meant the owner, because businesses are prohibited from making direct contributions to candidates), along with the unusual notation “5K in food contributed by the owner, remainder collected in cash at the end if event, which paid for the rest of the food/event.” On the same report, Hoang lists $9,910 in expenditures to Ocean Palace, along with the same notation regarding “food contributed by owner.” Hoang did the same contribution/expenditure double-dip when listing his, ah, interactions with local media. (At the risk of exposing our self to charges of racism and bigotry from one of Hoang’s Caucasian campaign flunkies, we’ll note for the record that Hoang’s media expenses/contributions/whatever appear to have been almost exclusively with Vietnamese-language publications and radio. )

4. Hoang has no excuse for this. He’s a lawyer, and it wasn’t his first rodeo, as he’s previously run for an at-large council seat and a state district judgeship (resulting in at least one fine for a late campaign finance report to the Texas Ethics Commission, which apparently was waived). The mind boggles at two, four, six years of Al Hoang on the city council.

Photo, top right: "Throw your hands in the air like you just don't care ...."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All Hail Aloysuis: District F Residents Prepare to Welcome Their New Out-of-District Overlord

But first, a few points about the residency, or non-residency, of Councilman-elect Al Hoang:

1. Hoang did not become eligible to vote in District F until Oct. 16 of this year––less than three weeks before the Nov. 3 general election.

2. Hoang lists his address for voting registration purposes as 4403 Bugle, near Boone Road in Alief. According to appraisal district records, Hoang took ownership of the residence at 4403 Bugle on March 3 of this year and claims a homestead exemption on it. The previous owner was a Duyen K. Trinh.

3. According to voter registration records, four other people in addition to Hoang are registered to vote at 4403 Bugle, including previous owner-of-record Duyen K. Trinh. The others are Thanh Thi Hoang, Hoanganh Thi Trinh and Hoang’s wife, Hang Bich Nguyen.

4. Prior to becoming eligible to vote in District F on Oct. 16, Hoang listed his address for voting purposes as 10001 Westpark Dr, Apt 83. That address is in Council District G. That was where Hoang was registered to vote when he filed to run for the District F seat. According to appraisal district records, Hoang owns a condo at that address.

5. According to Brazoria County appraisal district records, Hoang’s wife, Hang B. Nguyen, is the owner of a house at 2702 Sunfish Drive in Pearland and claims a homestead exemption on it. The house was acquired by Hoang and his wife in August of 2002. The deed was transferred from Hoang to his wife in March 2008.

6. Article V, Section 4 of the city charter states: "To file for office as a District Council Member, a person must be a qualified voter of the City who has resided in the territory encompassed by the City Council District to be served for 12 months immediately preceding the election day."

7. The law is a joke. But you knew that.

Photo, top right: "Here it is!" Found on the Al Hoang for District F website and used without permission (none at all).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Late Night-Early Morning Coffee-Fueled Post-Election Mash-Up

We’ll leave to others the predictable analysis and sentimentalizing about what it all means and just say that the best candidate won. As Parker herself noted, her victory was historic in overcoming the long-standing stigma that has prevented Rice graduates from ascending to the city’s highest office. Our newly elected mayor has a sense of humor––it can be wicked, we’ve heard––and we’d imagine that will come in handy.

Locke never struck us a bad person, and in fact had the most interesting personal story of the entire field, but as we tried to point out in this space on a number of occasions, in a number of ways, there wasn’t much rationale to his campaign. Combining all that union support and promise-making with backing from the likes of Ned Holmes and Bob Perry made for one ungainly effort and a very muddled message. The current demographic equilibrium in the municipal electorate necessitates artful coalition-building–– that’s a good thing!––but welding the monolithic black vote to whatever anti-gay sentiment there is to be stirred-up apparently is not the ticket. (Rumors that Hotze the Herb Doctor and Dave Wilson were spotted loading up U-Hauls late Saturday night apparently were false.)

Locke was gracious in defeat, as was Parker in victory, and as a concerned citizen we would ask that Locke perform one more public service before he returns to the rigors of $640-an-hour public-agency lawyering: MAKE SURE SOMEBODY TAKES DOWN ALL THOSE GODDAMN SIGNS YOUR CAMPAIGN TACKED UP ALL OVER THE CITY ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY. Yeah, that was overkill. Bizarre overkill. We plied the hustings a bit on Election Day and thought we even spied one tied to a fence outside a cemetery. Very unsightly.

Elsewhere on the ballot, we were pleased to see that Stephen Costello prevailed in the at-large Position 1 council race. He struck us as thoughtful and low-key, attributes that will be in demand on a council to which Jolanda Jones will be returning. We had no horse in the controller’s race––statutorily, we believe the controller’s main job is to lay the ground work for a future mayoral campaign––so once in the voting booth (or cubicle, whatever you call it now) we shrugged and spun the dial for our outgoing councilman, M. J. Khan, ’cause we figured it would be cool to have a lesbian as mayor and a Muslim as controller. Nah, not really. We just never heard Ronald Green offer a specific, detailed explanation of his troubles with the IRS. Lord knows we’re sympathetic with anyone who has problems with the tax collector, but the liens against Green, and the total he owes to the agency, suggest that he has a long-standing problem getting his own fiscal shit together. But apparently there are enough Democrats in the city playing Democrats-versus-Republican in supposedly non-partisan municipal politics to hoist Green to higher office (that includes Chris Bell, our former congressman [recently elevated, or demoted, to state senator by the error-ridden daily newspaper], who left an urgent message on our machine on behalf of Green). Now that he’s obtained a better-paying post at the public trough, we hope Councilman Green will be able to satisfactorily resolve this dispute (you can bet we’ll never hear back form the media on this particular matter, because winning cancels all debts, at least spiritually).

Now for the distressing news: We were stunned––okay, very surprised––by the results in our own humble District F, where lawyer Aloysius Hoang beat lawyer Mike Laster. The latter, a former assistant city attorney, had a long record of civic involvement in Sharpstown and apparently has lived for a number of years in a downscale, unfashionable neighborhood in the area, in a house that’s even smaller than ours and carries an even lesser appraisal for tax purposes. In other words, Laster was committed to the district. Hoang, by contrast, appears to have taken an address in District F for voting purposes, becoming eligible to cast his ballot there just prior to the November first-round election, and his wife claims a homestead exemption on an abode in Brazoria County. Almost every cent he raised came from fellow Vietnamese-Americans, many of them from outside of the district. (There’s nothing wrong with that, per se––that's how immigrant groups traditionally have gotten a leg-up in electoral politics, but it doesn’t exactly reflect support from the wider “community” you’ll pretend to represent.) Some benighted representatives of the media and academia will, of course, hail the election of a Vietnamese immigrant as some splendiferous triumph of “diversity,” but the actual story is infinitely more complex and, if we may stoop to rank sentimentality, sadder. The turnout for Saturday’s runoffs in District F was pathetic: Hoang won by about 500 votes of the 8,860 or so total cast. Aloysius found a convenient jurisdiction in which to pursue his ambition of becoming a macher in Viet-Am circles. We hope that from here on out he can be found laying his head on a goddamn pillow every night in District F (F is for “forewarned is forearmed”).

Okay, we were stunned. More on this as developments warrant.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Blues in the Bottle, at Tater Diggin’ Time: A Dead Voice Gathered, Just Barely

Note: The following has nothing to do with politics or government ... or maybe it does.
–– Hidalgo Hidalgo, editor emeritus,
Slampo’s Place

Late, late t’other night, while piddling on the Internet (is there any controlled substance as capable of sending the user on extended, pointless, insidiously time-wasting jags?), our meanderings brought us to a site called, somewhat unimaginatively, Old Weird America, the phrase the author-critic Greil Marcus formulated to describe the ethnographic emanations from Harry Smith’s 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music, the Ur-text from which Dylan and hundreds of lesser mortals cribbed, and which was the real subject of Marcus’s book Invisible Republic (which ostensibly was about Dylan’s Basement Tapes). The site appears to be maintained by an obsessive, Middle Eastern-looking Frenchman who goes by the handle “Gadaya” and who, apparently as a selfless act of l-u-v, has devoted himself to profiling each and every musician or band who appeared on Smith’s anthology. It so happened that our eyes fell on the entry for Prince Albert Hunt’s Texas Ramblers, a Dallas-area "hot string" combo whose Wake Up Jacob appeared on the Smith anthology. Prince Albert––his full name was Archie Albert Hunt; apparently he assumed the royal title from the side of a tobacco tin––is believed to have recorded only eight songs for the storied Okeh recording company before a jealous husband drilled him in the heart with a .25 automatic as Hunt and his killer’s wife exited a joint called Confederate Hall in Dallas in 1931. Prince Albert’s best known contribution to the American songbook was Blues in the Bottle, a sprightly, careening number made known to future generations through the Lovin‘ Spoonful’s reworking on one of its mid-'60s LPs. (That version, as best we can remember, did not include the declaration by Hunt, a white man who performed in blackface at medicine shows, “This old black daddy, I can stand to see you die,” nor did it include that most sublime of extended metaphors regarding unresponsiveness: “Dig your taters/It’s tater diggin’ time, pretty mama ... [but] Ol’ Man Jack Frost/Done killed yo’ vine.”)

Any-a-ways, the Frenchman’s site linked us to and this absolutely fascinating (to us––you may be bored to tears) 29-minute film about Hunt that a guy named Ken Harrison made in 1974 for Dallas public TV station KERA, before going on to bigger and better things. Harrison undertook his project in the true nick of time, as he was able to interview a number of people who remembered––sort of––Hunt, including the fiddler’s son, P.A. Hunt (who had a startling resemblance to our late Uncle Lefty), assorted cousins (a couple of whom identify themselves as “double cousins”) and a fellow musician named Harmon Clem, who try their best to fill in the blanks on Prince Albert’s mere 31 years on earth (mostly in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area).

The film doesn’t reveal a whole lot about Hunt. Forty three years after his death, memories were worn, sometimes contradictory: One ol’ boy (unfortunately, Harrison doesn’t identify his interviewees as they speak) recalls the younger Hunt as a “quiet” lad who liked to stick to himself; the other Stetson-wearing ol’ boy on the porch right next to him chimes in that Hunt was a “jolly” sort and a “comedian” who “always had somethin’ to say, doncha see?” Ah, yes.

But Harrison's film tells you a lot about what Texas, or at least a good part of it, was like in 1974––check out the shot-from-the-car-window footage of the rolling East Texas countryside, set to Prince Albert's Travelin' Man (was that farmer with the horse-drawn plow a set-up shot?)––which in turn suggests what Texas might have been like in 1931 and 1900, and, if you listen closely, something about why Texas is like it is today. If you’re of a certain age and station, the old-timers Harrison interviewed 35 years back seem intimately familiar. The two double cousins––both in cowboy hats, one with a plug in this cheek and the other with a butt hanging from his lip––are raw-boned tenders of a junkyard whose straightforward, unself–conscious presence before the camera hints at how much the race has diminished in the ensuing decades (although the dental care apparently is much improved). The fiddler Clem recalls how Dallas was when he first arrived there: “There was a bunch of poor people runnin’ up and down the street in 1928 up to ’33. And it was all gettin’ on relief so you couldn’t get a job for love or money. Well, we played them eating joints down in Deep Ellum, we were playing, making a little money in there.” And Hunt’s son, born in 1922, recalls how little his father was around when he was young––he doesn’t really have much good to say about his daddy––and how he and his family would often awake in a house with nothing to eat (which sounds like real hunger, as opposed to “food insecurity”).

Born in Terrell, east of Dallas, in 1900, son of a “full-blood” Irishman and “near-full-blood” Cherokee woman, Hunt apparently grew to be the rounder and rambler that Jimmie Rodgers only sang about. The subject of his assumed (or wished-for) negritude is touched on just briefly in Harrison’s film, when the wizened Clem relates, “He’d get that black on him, and there wadn’t a nigger that could imitate him at all, hardly.” The Inimitable White Man Who Sang Like a Black Man But Could Not in Turn Be Imitated by a Black Man! Ain't that America? In any case, Prince Albert seems to be the missing link between Bob Wills and Blind Lemon Jefferson, whose picture Harrison flashes briefly in his film, without explanation or identification.

Hunt’s story seems similar, save for its abrupt ending on the Dallas sidewalk, to that of Emmett Miller, a blackface singer-comedian of the same vintage whose elusive biographical particulars the writer Nick Tosches spent many years chasing until they effloresced into his brilliant Where Dead Voices Gather. Maybe Harrisons’s film, dressed up by modern editing techniques and supplemented with up-to-date research and documentation, could do for Prince Albert what Tosches did for Miller. Or maybe not. Meantime, you can download Hunt’s Blues in the Bottle, as well as other stuff from the Smith anthology and elsewhere, for free here. Hunt also cut a tune called Houston Slide, which (we think) can be had for nothing here.

Correction: In the original of this posting, whatever you call it, we erroneously referred to the maker of the film on Hunt as "Ken Hammond," which we believe to be the result of a devilish transposition of the names of a former local newspaper editor and the late producer John Hammond. Although we much prefer "Ken Hammond," the filmmaker's actual name is Ken Harrison. We regret the error.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

What Your Global Corporate Masters Were Up To While You Slept, Possibly Under the Influence of Ambien

From a story in Saturday's New York Times on "Ottomania," the widespread and growing nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire that's all the rage in Turkey, supposedly that most secularized and Western-leaning of Muslim countries, which the Times suggests has something to do with the European Union's reluctance to accept Turkey as a full-fledged member:
During Ramadan, Burger King offered a special sultan menu featuring dishes popular in the Ottoman years. In the television commercial promoting the meal, a turbaned Janissary — a member of an elite group of Ottoman soldiers — exhorts viewers not to “leave any burgers standing.”

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Mayoral Candidate Takes Bold Stand, Declares "Race" Is Off the Table

We see that Gene Locke, sporting very pimpalicious Stetson-like headgear he may have borrowed from the Bill White Collection (since both seem to have relatively large heads, and we mean this in a purely physical sense), has gone far, far out on a limb to declare that he will not be making an issue of race or sexuality in the coming days before his runoff with Annise Parker.

We were relieved to learn, and maybe you were too, that Locke has boldly deemed "race" to be a hands-off topic, because, y'know, it hasn't exactly been coming up a lot previously and because, y'know, at least a bare majority of the Houston electorate is still of the Caucasian persuasion (as am we). As for making an issue of sexuality (we believe he meant homosexuality) ... well, apparently he's leaving that to others.

By the way, we have to say that Jack Christie's rejection of the Hotze endorsement causes us to look with some renewed favor on the man. We have no idea what that move was all about, but it seems that Christie could probably use however many votes Hotze commands (we'd bet it's a lot [lot] fewer than the number of mailings he sends out) in his runoff with at-large council incumbent Jolanda Jones. (Although Jones' apparently insatiable need for attention and/or validation still gives us the skeevies, we found our self warming to her a bit after watching the municipal-access broadcast of the council meeting at which she went after the mayor's expensive BARC consultant*––particularly when she expressed mock incredulity at the fellow's charging the city for two hours of his time to speak with her, an elected rep of the people, which Jones suggested was in any event a gross miscounting of the minutes he actually "consulted" with her. )

So we may be throwing our vote Christie's way, if he can satisfy us that he, or somebody, has cleaned the algae from that pool at the in-town apartment he rented last time he ran for a council seat (scummy swimming pools being a serious liability for office-holders).

*An issue we otherwise care absolutely nothing about.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Attention Dave Wilson: Annise Parker Is Claiming to Be “Sensible,” and You Know What That Means! (Doncha?)

We learned today that during our two-week hiatus from blogurbatin’ the Houston mayoral race has gotten downright meta-, with one of the two remaining candidates exploiting familiar stereotypes to win votes. That candidate is, of course, Annise Parker, who has sent the Slampo family a mailing –– we’re pretty sure ours was not the only household to have gotten it –– declaring, most proudly and unashamedly, although rather prosaically, “There’s Nothing Wrong with Sensible” (not even an excitement-inducing exclamation mark –– how sensible is that?!). Beneath that declaration for the ages is a full-color picture of a pair of scissors and a passel of clipped newspaper coupons, possibly the most unexciting visual accoutrement in the history of direct-mail political advertisements.

We presume this is the Parker campaign’s sly, tongue-in-check riposte to those (supposedly) 35,000 mailings that our old pal Dave Wilson sent out week before last warning Republicans of the plagues that will befall Houston should it elect a lesbian as mayor on Dec. 12. (Dave would have been better off doing something sensible with his money, like taking a book of numerology with him to the dog track.) Parker, in fact, seems to be touting her, ah, whatyacallit, sexual orientation, as proof that she'll be a trustworthy steward of the public purse.

As all of our wised-up cosmopolitan readers know, “being sensible” is a sure sign of lesbianism, perhaps the hallmark sign of lesbianism. You see it in their choice of comfortable footwear, in the low-maintenance, non-gas-guzzling SaturnsSubarus they drive to the softball field, in their cost-conscious, no-frills buzz-cut hairstyles, in their proficiency with hammers and screwdrivers and do-it-yourself projects, in their love of that godawful straight-ahead heartland rock ’n’ roll of Melissa Etheridge, in their ... and so on.

It’s a wild, crazy lifestyle, as Dave Wilson will tell you.

We personally find nothing wrong with “sensible,” having recently been forced to come to grips with our own inner lesbian. Not only do we clip coupons, often finding that experience the highlight of our minutes spent with the local Sunday newspaper, but for many years we, too, drove a low-maintenance, non-gas-guzzling Saturn. We like to keep our blades sharpened and our tools in order. We spend no more than $10 to have our remaining hairs cut, although we throw in a nice tip if the Vietnamese lady barber administers a brisk scalp massage, and we always wear the most comfortable and unfashionable shoes we can afford (although we don't wear our Crocs outside of the house, and wish you wouldn't, either). And, no, you can’t smoke on our porch. Go stand in the street. (We may have crossed the line from sensible to “stodgy.”)

It was not always thus. Many years ago, in a Hub City barroom near the break of day, we set our T-shirt on fire, not by accident, to impress a girl (she wasn’t, or maybe she was ...). But we have lived, and we have learned, belatedly, that there is nothing wrong with sensible.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sins of Omission: As “Gay Panic” Hits Runoff, Still No 1040s From Locke, While Chronicle Soccer-Stadium Story Manages to Leave Out the Good Parts

Following an interesting and informative Bradley Olson story on Saturday documenting a potential unholy alliance between Gene Locke and, as Olson describes it, "staunch social conservatives who are either actively planning on attacking [Annise] Parker's sexuality or strongly considering it,” the Chronicle on Sunday offered a look at the runoff candidates’ positions on the city’s contributions to a new soccer stadium that was notable for a glaring factual error as well as the germane context that it left out.

The paper erroneously described Locke as a former chairman of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, which presumably has a hand, or would have a hand, in structuring and administering whatever financing arrangement emerges from the apparently stalled negotiations over the facility. Actually, the law firm in which Locke is a partner, Andrews Kurth, is the general counsel to the publicly funded authority, and Locke himself acted as its lawyer at least until April (if not beyond), when, as the doughty Texas Watchdog put it, he gave up “the $640-an-hour fees that went with the job” to run for mayor. And Locke, as far as can be discerned from the public record, is still listed as a partner in Andrews Kurth, meaning he’s still benefitting from whatever work the firm is doing for the authority (as well as other tax-funded local government entities). All this has been batted around fairly extensively in the ground-level media, most notably by Texas Watchdog but also occasionally in this space, when the Lord grants us the time to perform our important community work, and other places as well. Yet nowhere in the Chronicle story is the name “Andrews Kurth” mentioned, nor does the report point out that Locke, as of his last campaign finance disclosure to the city, had received a total of $7,500 in contributions from the Dynamo’s owners, including $3,000 from California billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, and another $2,000 from Dynamo president and former sports authority executive director Oliver Luck (who is identified in the Chronicle story as a fund-raiser for Locke). These contributions, of course, would be wholly irrelevant to the stadium question and were made simply because the donors are concerned about good government in Houston. (Sleepy Chronicle columnist Rick Casey –– hey, we were thinking the other day, what happened to his cuz and onetime Chronicle stablemate, Whitney Casey? –– did report that former welterweight champ Oscar De La Hoya had given $2,000 to Locke, but Casey cited this act of selfless generosity as a “celebrity” donation and failed to mention that the Golden Boy has been reported to have a minority ownership stake in the Dynamo).

(The Chronicle story did include –– you saw this coming, right? –– some contextual fluffery from none other than Bob “You-Need-A-Quote” Stein of Rice University, the yeoman journalist’s bestest friend, whose son-in-law, it is disclosed, works for the Locke campaign, a factoid that only gives rise again to perhaps the most pressing civic question facing Houston today: Is there nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide, from Bob Stein? [Of course, we can’t argue with the CW that Stein dispenses to the paper, but the dude needs to start screenin’ his calls .])

All of this makes a nice set-up to the Locke campaign’s refusal to even respond to Texas Watchdog’s request that he and Parker make public their households’ IRS returns for the past three years (Parker has released returns for both herself and her partner).

As for the emerging gay-panic narrative –– and how predictable was that? –– we will for the time being forgo the temptation to pound out 2,000 or so choice words on the subject and instead direct all concerned citizens to the succinct deboning of the non-issue by blogHouston’s Kevin Whited.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Weird Timing: Nat'l Enquirer Touches the Shroud of O'Quinn, in Passing; Stand By for Further Deets

We see that John O'Quinn has achieved a scale of world-class post-mortem notoriety that eluded him in life: He made the National Enquirer! Twice, if you count the follow-up with new "deets" –– that apparently means "details" in Enquirer-ese –– posted today on the paper's Web site. (It is, as they say in the news biz, "developing.")

Unfortunately for the late O'Quinn, he's the distant Second Banana in thee stories, whose aim and purpose appears to be the continued rending of the once-holy garment of his fellow plaintiffs' lawyer, the boy evangelist John Edwards, whose dallaince with and probable fathering of the child of a woman maned Rielle Hunter was so ably pursured and exposed by the Enquirer when the MSM willfiully (and wrongly, BTW) ignored what apparently was almost right in front of them.

The headline tells the tale: "Mystery Shrouds Death of Edwards Contributor" Oh, the ignominy, to be reduced in death to a mere "Edwards contributor." The "mystery shrouds" formulation would seem to to hint at nefarious and secret doings, possibly on the part of the former presidential candidate, but all that's delivered beneath is the news that O'Quiin was being "considered" for possible testimony to the grand jury investigating whether campaign funds were illegally funneed to Ms. Rielle to keep her quiet. Considered!
John O'Quinn was one of Edwards' biggest contributors and also a close friend of Fred Baron, who was Edwards' national finance chairman.

Baron allegedly paid hush money to Edwards' mistress Rielle Hunter and to Andrew Young, Edwards' former loyalist who took part in the cover-up surrounding the ex-senator's out-of-wedlock baby with Rielle.

Said the government source: "While there's no indication of wrongdoing in O'Quinn's death, it's weird timing that he was suddenly killed with the grand jury still investigating whether Edwards had broken any campaign finance laws when paying Rielle."

Edwards has denied paying hush money, but O'Quinn's violent death adds yet another strange twist to the incredible saga of the slick politician's rapid fall.

"There's absolutely no indication that Mr. O'Quinn did anything wrong - or knew about hush money or even knew John Edwards was having an affair," the DC insider said.
We noticed the Enquirer made no mention of such prosaic details as speeding on a winding, rain-slick road while wearing no seat belt and possibly text-messaging or speaking on a cell phone, or both, but there's not much in the way of enshrouding mystery there.

HOLD THE PHONE: The follow-up with the promised new "deets" revealed that O'Quinn, who died in a car crash, collected ... cars:
It's ironic that O'Quinn - a man who loved cars more than anything else -- would die ALONE in a one car crash. [Emphasis added; so much for the Enquirer's fact-check process.]
Now that O’Quinn has been formally ushered off to his final reward, to the strains of Danny Boy and under the able direction of the Rev. Ed Young, we suppose we wouldn't be breaching the bounds of good taste by pointing up the nature of the O’Quinn enterprise (and that of the boy evangelist as well): He was simply another practitioner, a very able and generous practitioner (as well we know), of the art of Victimology, that narrative mix of grievance and entitlement which holds that a woman who willfully chose to have a doctor sew wads of silicon in her chest –– something that just a half-century ago probably would have been considered evidence of mental illness –– was entitled to recompense when things didn’t go as planned, or that an ol’ boy who continued to smoke three packs a day, long after the dangers of such were writ on the sides of those very packs, was entitled to recompense after suffering the inevitable consequences.

This, of course, is the prevailing orthodoxy in most precincts of the academy, the media and the legal profession, and just how deeply and unconsciously entrenched it is could be gauged by the Houston Chronicle’s follow-up story to O’Quinn’s death by auto accident, which posed the question, apparently in all seriousness, “Was it the road’s fault?”

We await the Enquirer's possible revelation of new and tangy deets on the road-blame factor.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

It's the White Lesbian Vs. the Formerly Angry Black Man. What'll the Neighbors Say?*

Self-promotion is not our thing, either here at Slampo's Place or back in the real world, which is why we always turn promotional tasks over to Hidalgo Hidalgo & Associates LLP., whose namesake's rise from $6.40-an-hour illegal yardman to $640-an-hour world-class publicity-mongerer is the quintessential Houston story affirming Our Town's embrace of both "opportunity" and "diversity." So, in a Peter Brown-like effort to get our full money's worth, we'll turn our space over to this morning's press release from HH & Ass., which he promises will be winging its way to you soon "if I can figure out how to get this dang Fax deal workin'."
Of all the bloggers, joggers, bum-smackers, fact-checkers, booty-snatchers, sack-scratchers, dog-catchers and other "observers" of the 2009 Houston mayoral race, it appears that Slampo's Place was alone in correctly "calling" the results. As Sr. Slampo wrote back on Oct. 24, after viewing the final televised debate between the candidates and ingesting a large plate of Indian take-out that he says left him "a bit gassy" ... "We still think it’ll be Locke and Parker in a runoff, with the black vote (and what else?) breaking monolithically for Locke and Parker beating the bushes to get her diehards to the polls, but either of those two and Brown wouldn’t surprise, and in any case it’ll be close, 3-5 points separating the three but Morales doing better than expected ... "
Thank, you Hidalgo. We couldn't have said it better ourself. However, we must point out that we were a little (or a lot) off in setting the spread among the top three candidates, as the difference between top finisher Annise Parker and Out-of-the-Money Brown was a full 8 points (we figured that Farmer Brown would top out at about 25 percent), and, in truth, we thought Roy Morales would be lucky to crack 18 percent (rather than the 20.4 percent he got –– did the additional 2 or so come out Brown's instant "base" of not-so-committed TV watchers?).

OK, so we weren't that close. And we should also point out that most knowledgeable types whose forecasts came to our attention at least had Parker in a runoff, if not leading. That most knowledgeable of knowledgeable observers, the Bob Lanier Professor of Public Policy at the University of Houston, in his undercover guise as Prof 13, called the "advantage" for Parker and pretty much predicted that she would meet Locke in a second round.

So what happened to Farmer Brown? While we can't quite embrace Sr. Rick Casey's in-so-many-words assertion that Brown's finish proves money can't buy an election –– hell, this is America, you can buy any damn thing you want, at all hours, especially out on Harwin Drive –– it is true that there was much less than met the eye to Brown and his campaign, starting with the constant flurry of plans and proposals the Friends 'n' Family Candidate issued forth to project an aura of substantiality, if that's an actual word. The high point of his effort was the front-runner status he was accorded in late-breaking polls issued by the Chronicle and Channel 11/KUHF, both of whose "screen" of voters who claimed they would go to the polls for the very low-interest election seemed a bit suspect (you know how it is –– you catch some people-pleasing registered voter/respondent at home who's only vaguely aware there's an election and has no history of participating in past municipal election but has seen a PB commercial just recently so she's down for PB, at least for the moment). But PB gained no traction, no momentum from the attention delivered by these polls; instead, we suspect, they caused people who were unsure of their choices to look a little closer or go ahead and throw in with Morales, the other non-black, non-openly gay candidate (unless of course they were black themselves and had somehow been unaware that Locke's black, too, and upon having had that salient fact brought to their attention fell quickly in line so as to adhere to the rule laid out in the Unofficial Guide to Being an Authentic Black Person in America: that is, a black person can only vote for a black candidate, when given that choice). The general lack of widespread interest in the electoral doings basically brought the contest down to committed and informed voters, proving, again that low-turnout elections are to be preferred (the lower the turnout the better; our ideal neo-Platonic electorate would consist of just us –– me, myself y yo.) We believe, however, that PB might have fared better had he not come across in public as a Brooks Brothers-clad combination of Hee Haw's Grandpa Jones and Mr. Haney of Green Acres.**

But the dogs bark –– hear them baying, out in the abandoned graveyard, site of a future high-density loft-apartment development –– and the caravan moves on, although there appears to be some back-up on I-10 due to an overturned tractor-trailer blocking the left two lanes. As to that future, we suppose that either of the runoff choices would be OK and the election of neither would cause some great tragedy to befall the city, although we personally will be casting our second vote for Parker on Dec. 12. We believe that those who say there isn't much difference between the two are wrong, and that Parker will be willing to say "No" at least occasionally, or more often than Locke, although such ability is not one that translates easily into a snappy 30-second TV commercial. As usual, though, we're willing to be disappointed.

As charitable contribution to this great metropole of ours, we're waiving our customary $640-an-hour fee and offering the following advice, free of charge, to each candidate:
1. Locke: Get some white folks out at your next big party, so it doesn't appear to be the nearly all-black affair that the cameras revealed (perhaps falsely) when panning your victory celebration Tuesday night. Couldn't any of those honkified lawyers or engineers who gave you the maximum $10,000 husband-and-wife contribution show up and mill around for a while, for diversity's sake?
2. Parker: Get some males, guys, dudes to stand directly behind you next time you're on TV and up at the podium speechifying; the two gents you had behind you Tuesday night were placed way to far in the back to project on-camera. If need be, Hidalgo Hidalgo is available, for diversity's sake, to mill around behind you and smile, at his regular $640-an-hour rate (meal not included).

Next: M.J. Khan Shocks the World; Reveals Plans to Spend "Three Consecutive Nights" Inside City Limits!
AND: Chronicle to Resolve Runoff Dilemma by Endorsing Peter Brown and Roy Morales, Publisher Says

* Headline borrowed from the New York Times, which belatedly decided that it was "unfit" for even their on-line editions.
**Outdated Baby Boomer-vintage TV references, possibly not even accurate.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Late-Breaking Election News: Scooter Khan Nabs Key Endorsement, Is No Longer a Campaign Finance Scofflaw (Or at Least Not as Much of One)

It had gotten so that every day for the past couple of months, after dragging our weary carcass back to the domicile we claim as a homestead for tax purposes, we'd pause at the mailbox and wonder, with a rise of no small expectation we found difficult to suppress, "Did Khalid Khan send us any mail today?" This semi-regular haunting of our mail receptacle by the District F council candidate was, for us, the high point of the current, rather drab municipal election season.

We were sad to realize that the mail loped to a stop last week after we were the recipient of a personal "Dear friend" missive from Mehreen Khan, who apparently is conjoined in holy matrimony to Khalid and who, if she's the same woman pictured on several of the many previous mailings we'd received from KK, is a looker, as we aging metrosexuals say (yes, we are the sort of superficial fellow who tends to think better of a guy if he's got a good-looking wife or girlfriend––shows initiative, among other things). Anyway, Ms. Khan wrote to inform us that her husband is not only a successful businessman but a great humanitarian, doting dad and all-around excellent role model. "I guarantee you will be pleased with his work performance," enthused Mrs. Khan, who appears to have affixed her personal signature to the letter.

You may snicker, but as far as we know we've gotten no similar endorsements from the spouses and/or significant others of any of the other six candidates vying in District F, a political jurisdiction that offers an almost too-perfect confirmation of Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam's theory regrading the deleterious effects of "diversity" on community. (Watch how low the turnout is in this one.) And we have received no similar letter, nary a one, from the wife of Peter Brown (whose full name, we believe, is Schlumberger heiress Anne Brown), or the wife of Gene Locke, or the partner of Annise Parker. Or even Roy Morales' significant other.

Certainly a letter from a candidate's wife urging a vote on his behalf is much preferred to a letter from a candidate's wife urging a vote against her husband, or a vote for another candidate (now that would get our attention).

In addition to the public support of his wife, last week brought more salutary tidings from Khalid Khan: He's finally gotten his campaign finance reports to comport with reality (or close enough), with his latest and yet another amended version of his earlier one now showing he had spent about $92,000 on direct mail through Oct. 24. (Khan, however, still hasn't listed the occupation of even one of his contributors, including one-named $1,000 donor "Nash" of LaPorte, who must be the guy who doles out political money from the convenience store parking lot.)

That strikes us as an absurdly high figure for a very low-interest election in a demographically inchoate city council district. We now belatedly realize that we had grievously underestimated Khalid Khan, who may in fact be the Peter "Farmer" Brown of our humble District F, layin' down the Astroturf and harvestin' the vote.

Enough of this micro-hyper-local palaver. Do we have a prediction on the mayoral race? Yes, we do. It's gonna be Parker and Locke, unless it's Brown and Locke or Parker and Brown. Personally, we're voting for Parker. You go with who you like, and let a hundred flowers bloom o'er this grand metropolis of ours, from the Ship Channel to Highway 6 and beyond, if the city limits stretch that far.

We forgot to vote early, so we may see you at the polls, unless we forget again (if we don't, please refrain from handing us any push cards, especially if they're for Khalid Khan).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Illusionist

We've finally realized what it is we've found subconsciously bothersome about mayoral candidate Peter Brown, and the revelation came via the hand of whichever artful contriver fashioned his plentiful television commercials. What Brown promises is magic, that with a stroke of his drafting pencil he can transform blueprints into reality, without the intercessionary messiness of politics, or the application of political skills (neither of which––politics or political skills––we're fully convinced he possesses).

His truly are some of the most honest political advertisements we've ever seen.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Final Wheeze-Off: The Tie Goes to ... Roy Morales!

Our lightly edited card from the grand finale of mayoral debates, broadcast on Channel 11 Saturday night: We scored it a four-way tie, six-way if you count the two potted plants strategically positioned on-stage, nobody much gained or lost at all (at all), which means the big winner was Roy Morales, the least polished public presence and most un-mayoral looking and sounding of the quartet. But, if anyone was watching (and they probably weren’t), Morales did manage to cleanly and clearly cement his position as the distinct “none of the above” alternative to the other three. And he got on TV! Again! The question for Morales is not of course whether he can miraculously slide into a runoff but how high into the double digits he’ll place (there won’t be a kingmaker role in his future, though, because a sizable percentage of his voters won’t bother to return for an all-liberal Democrat runoff). So let’s see how it went down, by candidate:

Morales: Revealed that as a youngster he had been “beaten up” because, as he put it, “of the color of my skin.” Hmmm. Morales looked to be the second-lightest-complected candidate on the platform, after the overly made-up Annise Parker, so we’re wondering whether he meant other Mexicans were pummeling him because he looked too white, or what. Anyway, Morales obviously has sharpened his elbows since, as evidenced by the clean and relatively cogent poke he threw at Peter Brown over his council vote to assist a development in which his wife is an investor and the digs he took at Gene Locke over his Metro connections and (for instance) his pledge to create a new “flood plain manager” position for the city. Morales was the only one to clearly pledge to oppose extension of benefits to the same-sex partners of city workers (although Brown didn’t seem too enthusiastic over another voter referendum on the matter), a position not to be underestimated as a vote-getter in some limited quarters, and was most forthright in support of the city’s participation in the feds‘ 287(g) (although Parker crisply reiterated her standard no-BS position, the correct position as far as we’re concerned). He also got in a sweet and true plug for making English the dominant language in public schools (which it ain’t, at far too many). Morales’ big problem, aside from the fact that nobody’s given him any money to go on TV, is that he just doesn’t project in person. He did, however, manage to not look like a cute lil’ chipmunk with nut-stuffed cheeks––maybe it was the lighting.

Locke: No longer wants to “dehonkify” the University of Houston, or any other locale, for that matter. “In fact I love honkies ... I love all people, let me make that clear, but especially honkies,” Locke intoned. “Especially honkies who live in Kingwood, Clear Lake, River Oaks, Memorial, and west Houston and have a history of voting Republican. Sometimes I feel like a real crack-corn honky myself, like when I look at all the powerful, influential honkies who have given me money for this campaign, or when I’m up here with these other fine honkies––that includes you, too, Roy, mah honky.” Nah, he didn’t say that, not at all. We actually forgot most of what he said in a response to a panelist’s question about his call to “dehonkify” UH back in his long-past student firebrand days and whether a white candidate, having made a similar past comment about blacks in 1969, would have gotten off as easily as Locke appears to. But Locke basically shrugged it off, good naturedly, and acknowledged that at age 62 he’d learned to “measure my words.” (We know the dehonkifcation thing, if it ever got traction, would hurt Locke out in Kingwood and Clear Lake and so forth, although we personally hold to the LBJ dictum on such matters, pronounced by Johnson when [after being informed that someone or other, possibly a prospective appointee, had a wayward lefty past] he declared that anybody who wasn’t a commie or a fellow traveler back in the 1930s probably wasn’t worth a poo.) Locke’s deft swatting away of the pesky question underscored his real strength as a candidate: He looks and sounds more like a mayor than his opponents. (Yes, yes, this is a whatchamacallit, a phallocentric view, so discount it if you’d so prefer.) He gives off a little of the slick country lawyer––just enough, not too much––and Houstonians of all races and nationalities generally dig that schizz, in small doses. Scored solidly in the debate when he was closest on recalling the city’s current property-tax rate of .63875 and relating that his own tax bill was a “monster” and “in excess of $5000.” Big problem for Locke (aside from the really big one, that being that Anglo Dems who ordinarily could be counted on to back a black candidate are mostly with his two honky opponents) is that he has the least to say of all four––there’s “opportunity” and “diversity” surrounded by little puffs of vague rhetorical smoke––and his campaign seems to consist of retailing promises––or commitments, as he calls them––to all the various outfits that have endorsed him. Just today we read in the Pakistan Chronicle, our sixth- or seventh-favorite southwest Houston weekly publication, of Locke’s endorsement from the 80-20 PAC (Asian-American types) and his pledge to them: “This endorsement is like a contract with you all, to serve your needs and resolve your issues.” Jesus, he’s contracted. That one we didn't make up. (By the way, you know there’s one mighty nuke of a commercial waiting to drop on Locke if he makes it into a runoff––the one about his $640-an-hour fee charged to the Houston-Harris County Sports Authority.)

Peter Brown: He likes to speak Spanish. He’s passionate about recycling (said so twice, so maybe he’s super-passionate.) Didn’t sound as wheezy and raspy as he does around the council table or has at previous encounters. A nice tan. Looked hale and vigorous, as if he could pass for 65. Status as newly acclaimed poll front-runner certified by panelist's query about whether he’s “buying” support in the black community, theme of a recent Lockean radio ad tailored to African Americans. (Brown avoided answering the question but in the wrong way––he called attention to himself avoiding the question, so we had to strike him down 3-4 points). If he said the noisome word “blueprint” even once, we missed it, so we’re giving back the 3-4 deducted points. Hit back rather forcefully at Locke’s role as “dealmaler” and lawyer to the Sports Authority in structuring the now-stressed debt for our nice sorta-new stadiums. “I was a bad bond deal,” said PB. “When I’m mayor we’re not gonna have any of these, quote, ‘deals.' " (So we guess if Brown had been mayor back in ’97 or ’98 he would have employed his amazing powers of prognostication to foresee the subprime debacle and stand athwart these dealings, which means he’s way overqualified to be a mere big-city mayor.) Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job in masternig the art of being a veritable political Rorschach. Right where you need to be.

Parker: Likes to speak Spanish, too, but can’t reel it semi-trippingly off the tongue like PB (and shouldn’t try). Was way too smiley and squinty and sort of faded into the woodwork for the first half of the encounter. Relegated to a sidebar “response” in the Locke-Brown exchange over PB’s alleged purchase of black support, thus appearing to be reduced to a Morales-like irrelevancy. Rallied in the second half, though, with succinct and substantive (or appearing to be substantive––same thing) spiels on 287(g), air quality, flood control, the city’s use of borrowed money to satisfy pension obligations, etc. Parker’s a pro and managed to get off decent-sounding and thoughtful answers during the limited time allowed––not easy to do, as Morales and Brown proved. However, her "sincere," speaking-from-the-heart closing, recalling the old hard-workin' days in Spring Branch, etc., didn't work for us––sounded forced and tinny and definitely was not a deal-closer. Also lost points when she couldn’t recall how much she’d paid in city property taxes––come on, make a ballpark stab––and probably turned off considerable numbers of conservative voters, if there actually were any watching, with her generally favorable but still-cautious embrace of same-sex-partner benefits (although she has “no current plans” to seek a referendum on the question). We respect this as a heartfelt and honest position, probably honoring a commitment to core supporters and dancing with those that brung ya, touching close to home, etc., but there's something to be said for nuance.

So: We still think it’ll be Locke and Parker in a runoff, with the black vote (and what else?) breaking monolithically for Locke and Parker beating the bushes to get her diehards to the polls, but either of those two and Brown wouldn’t surprise, and in any case it’ll be close, 3-5 points separating the three but Morales doing better than expected (just think if he had the money and polish and telegenic good looks of a Rob Mosbacher––he’d be a cinch for a runoff he’d lose).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scooter Khan Is Still a Campaign Finance Scofflaw (We’re Sorry to Report)

Today we received our 10th piece of direct mail––that’s 10, count ‘em––from Khalid Khan, who appears to be spending a sizable amount of somebody’s money to win the seat representing the humble precincts of District F on the Houston City Council, even though he apparently does not reside in the humble district. Just how much he’s spent remains a mystery, because, as we and others have previously reported, Khan did not see fit to list any expenditures for the mailings on the odd campaign finance disclosure filed with the city earlier this month. (He also, as noted here and elsewhere, signed an affidavit attesting that he had not raised or spent more than $20,000, thus relieving himself of the legal duty to file his document electronically, then went on to list $34,000 in contributions on his hand-scribbled report.) By our not-too-precise but close-enough count, at least 6 or 7 of those mailings, and possibly more, fell into our mailbox during the Jul 1-Sept. 24 period covered by the early-October disclosure, and their costs should have been reflected in Sr. Khan’s filing. KK––we previously nicknamed him “Scooter,” for reasons that escape us, but it sounds fitting––did not respond to our humble entreaty for an explanation, but later told the Chronicle
... he filed the affidavit because he was unable to get a password to file his report electronically from the city secretary's office on the day it was due. He said the mailing expenses were not reported because he had not been billed for them yet, although the law requires that expenses be reported when they are incurred.
Yes, it does. Blogger Greg, of the humbly named Greg’s Opinion and another potential council constituent of KK’s, has called Khan’s assertion of non-billing “a flat-out lie” and suggested that if Khan were telling the truth the well-known local direct-mail outfit whose stampage Khan’s mailings bear might be required to file its own disclosure with the city reporting the costs as a coordinated campaign expense on Khan’s behalf.

Since the matter of KK's errant report received attention from the daily newspaper, the candidate has filed an affidavit explaining his professed inability to acquire an electronic password in time and resubmitting the same report he “filed manuly” [sic] earlier this month. In other words, he did not revise his report to disclose his actual spending, even though the law must be pretty clear to him by now.

KK’s latest mailing, by the way, is a doozy––an 11X28’’ accordion foldout whose cover features a mock Texas license plate (with the purple mountains, y’know) and the bizarre text-message imperative “Khan SAYNO2 Crime.”

Yes, Khan, do, and meantime say “yes” to campaign finance law.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Weak, Meaningless Gesture By a Fading Institution Unsure of Its Footing on Today’s “Media Landscape”

As we expected, the city’s leading daily newspaper had difficulty making up its institutional mind on the mayoral race. As we did not expect, the Chronicle resolved its internal confusion by issuing a non-endorsement endorsement Sunday of both Gene Locke and Annise Parker, complete with the candidates’ mug shots artfully arranged in alphabetical order amid the verbiage. The desultory nature of the entire enterprise could be detected in the less-than-vibrant prose (“Locke styles himself a consensus builder and dealmaker”) outlining the reasons for the paper’s dual recommendation (you the voter and resident of the real world will of course be limited to only one choice on Nov. 3), which read as if it could have been cut and pasted from the candidates’ campaign literature. Our first thought was that Peter Brown, by not squandering any of his wife’s inheritance on a series of full-page advertisements in the paper, may have screwed himself out of a coveted triple endorsement.

We have no inside information on the whys and wherefores of the process that led to this public profession of ineffectuality, but we’d wager that the Lockean portion of the double-nod was reached by a 1-0 vote of publisher Smilin’ Jack Sweeney, after a secret hooded ceremony that included a recitation of “The Song of the River,” that timeless bit of Hearstian poesy that wisely reminds us how fruitless it is to even wonder about “the mysteries/That only God may know” (and maybe [maybe] a friendly shoot-the-breeze discussion or two with Bob Lanier). Perhaps other, more earthbound placeholders on the masthead suggested that a full and unabashed nuzzling-up to Locke would be too much of a throwback to Ye Olde Chronicle, the Jones-owned and then Houston Endowment-ed one that was a serious downtown weight-thrower-around, famed for its inside wheelings and dealings, whose editorials, even into city’s the Early Modern Era, virtually seethed with contempt for the city’s first and thus far only female mayor. Perhaps the need to not solely embrace Locke was rendered more acute by the obvious fact that Parker is the better candidate of the entire lot, and we suspect that was borne out in the candidates’ meeting with the editorial board or janitorial staff or whoever supposedly makes these endorsement decisions. (As previously noted, we’re probably going to vote for Parker but are not yet fully in the bag, and in any case we’re not going to set our alarm to be first in line when the polls open.) A factor not to be underestimated in the paper's calculations is the extra pat-itself-on-the-back points it acquires through the dual nod: Look! We've endorsed a gay white woman and a straight black man! It's all about positioning. (You, the real world voter, will be unable to so widely embrace diversity.)

Meanwhile, the paper complemented its dual endorsement with a new Zogby poll confirming our previous prescient estimation of non-endorsee Brown’s mischief-wreaking potential (by the way, and apropos of nothing in particular, but outside of his commercials Brown has the public presence of a piece of rusty barb wire, doesn’t he?). While we suspect Brown may have reached his 52-week high, the Zogby numbers were in no way good news for double endorsees Parker and Locke. We were amused by the canned ham served up to the paper by somebody named Kim Devlin, a “senior adviser” to Locke (does he have “junior” advisers, too?), who opined that poll frontunner Brown is “learning an expensive lesson that Houstonians cannot be bought and leadership is more than just writing a check.” Well, as our coozan George Will has been known to exclaim upon awakening on the carpet after a long night of whiskey and Hank Jr.

Of these matters we shall soon say more, as sure as the mad river flows into the peaceful sea.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

M.J. Khan Shows It’s Better to Give Than Receive, At Least When It Comes to One Particular Donor

We noticed the largest expense our man on City Council, M. J. Khan, recently reported for his apparently not-too-happenin’ campaign for city controller was a $10,000 payment listed as “refund for contribution” (we think that should have been contributions, plural) to Mr. Haroon Shaikh on Aug. 16. That’s the day after the Chronicle revealed (or at least that’s where we first saw it) that Shaikh had resigned from the Houston-Harris County Sports Authority “amid questions,” as they say, over his apparent ownership of the local Foxx Video chain, which appeared to be sexually oriented businesses but were operating in the city without the required SOB permits (we’re mildly nonplussed when reminded that some consumers still go to the “video store” for their porn, which must be like keeping a rotary-dial phone at your house*).

That’s gratitude for you, huh? It was only two years that CPA Shaikh played host to a gala re-election fund-raising banquet for Councilman Khan at the “elegantly decorated Grand Ballroom of the Westin Galleria Hotel,” as this report on the Muslim Media Network described it, which featured none other than Mayor Bill White and which met the fund-raising “target of $250,000 for the night.” White roused the crowd––contrary to vicious rumor, many attendees did not doze off on their desert plates––by wheezing about the city’s “embracing diversity” through Khan’s election to council (BTW, its there anything you can do with or to diversity, individually or collectively, other than "embracing" it?) and saying that he
.. admired the support Councilman has received from his supporters and his family, especially from his wife, as M. J. preferred to be full-time councilperson as compared to others, which means leaving early in the morning and returning home everyday well past 9:00PM.
... which possibly led some in the crowd to wonder whether the mayor was referring to the
953-square-foot unit in the townhouse complex inside the city on Wilcrest where Khan is registered to vote, or the 10,000-square-foot mansion in the municipality of Piney Point listed under his wife's name. (In either case, 9 p.m. isn't that late, is it?)

In the interest of full transparency we must disclose here that we have no preference in the race for city controller; in fact, we don’t really care who’s elected city controller, as long as that individual doesn’t embezzle taxpayer funds––or at least isn’t caught on tape by the FBI doing it––and speaks passably good English. We most likely won’t be voting for Khan, however, as we’ve already voted for him two and possibly three times for city council and haven’t gotten a whole lot in return. We may flip a coin between the other two, or do something really drastic and follow the Chronicle’s recommendation.

As for Khan’s abrupt return of what he apparently believes is tainted money, consider us unimpressed. From a mere fiscal standpoint it appears that the would-be controller could use the dough, since the financial wellsprings of his campaign seem to have shriveled to fellow affiliates of the local Indo-Paki community (he did have a substantial amount of cash on hand as of last week, but most of it appears to have been carried over from his council campaign stash). More importantly, what does this say about his loyalty? We fully expect to soon see one of those big ugly plywood signs fastened to a fence out in the wilds of Wilcrest, proclaiming, “M.J. Khan: He Doesn’t Dance with Those That Brung 'im.

*Except for truckers who need something to watch on those long hauls.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Who Is Khalid Khan, And why Does He Keep Sending Me These Slick Mailings That He’s NOT Reporting on His Campaign Finance Disclosure?

Yeah: As of Saturday past the postman (or woman––we no longer have a “regular” postal carrier, apparently) has dropped into our mailbox eight (ocho) professionally produced mailings touting the many and variegated wonders of Khalid Khan, candidate for the District F city council seat being vacated by the non-related and term-limited M. J. Khan, who seeks greater glory and a larger paycheck as city controller. That’s more direct mail than we’ve received even from media-mad mayoral candidate Peter Brown. In fact, that’s more mail than we’ve received from all candidates for all city offices, combined, in the current campaign season.

But, as also noted this very day by Greg of Greg’s Opinion, another of the large stable of handsome and talented bloggers who call District F home, Khalid Khan appears not to list any expenditures for printing and postage on the campaign finance report he was was required to submit to the city last week. According to our still-decent but not wholly infallible memory, all but one and possibly two of these mailings arrived before Sept. 24, the cutoff date for reporting on city candidates‘ most recent disclosures. And some landed in our box before Aug. 26, the day that Khan for some reason listed as the starting date for his report (the concluding date is Oct. 24, suggesting KK possesses powers of prognostication that would be invaluable in an elected official, or market analyst), although the latest report required of fund-raising and spending candidates was supposed to cover the July 1-Sept. 24 period.

Khan’s report is a a masterwork in other aspects: He signed an affidavit attesting that he had not received or spent over $20,000, thus allowing him to avoid filing his disclosure electronically, then blithely went on to list a total of $34,010 in contributions (all of KK’s donors appear to be fellow Muslims, which does not faze us in the least, but we’re sure this baleful lack of diversity could be bothersome to some of Our Town’s leading Diversicrats, who of course avoid genuinely diverse areas such Alief or Sharpstown when they’re out and about celebrating their own hearty embrace of diversity). Among the $5,939 in expenses Khan listed for his fanciful reporting period were payments for photography, a Web site, voter data and signage, but nothing to the direct-mail company whose presorted postage-paid stamp his mailings bear. Interestingly––sort of––the address listed for Khan’s designated treasurer, one Ray Cunningham, is the same as that of Khan’s travel agency.

One of Khan’s mailings––they all highlight his 6-point “crime prevention plan”––laughably claims he’s “restoring integrity to District F.” That suggests Mr. Khan possesses not only a sense of humor but a certain sense of noblesse, since, as Greg, titular impresario of Greg’s Opinion, points out, KK doesn’t exactly reside in District F. We had noticed that in his mailings Khan has artfully skirted the issue of residency–-if we remember correctly, it arose four two years back when KK pressed an unsuccessful challenge against incumbent non-resident Councilman M.J. Khan–-by declaring that he’s “proud to call Houston home” and “has made District F his home for business for 22 years.” (Robert Kane, another candidate in the District F race, says he’s filed a complaint with the city’s Ethics Committee challenging whether Khan and two other opponents, Joe Chow and Al Hoang, meet the residency requirement to run for the office. While residency is a legally squishy issue and difficult to enforce [although it really shouldn’t be], Kane has compiled cross-checked documentation suggesting that maybe they shouldn’t be on the ballot.)

Yes, we know: Khalid Khan probably has a better chance of dunking a basketball from a standing position that being elected to the city council, but his blatant disregard of the rules is bothersome, rules being for everyone and all that business. Somebody oughta do something about it ...