27 September 2011
Disgraced METRO CEO Greanias's porn hobby costs taxpayers $14k+ (so far)
The minute METRO's officials (quite likely in consultation with Mayor Annise Parker) decided not to refer disgraced CEO George Greanias's apparent gay-child-porn viewing activities to proper legal authorities for investigation, it was clear that the fix was in. But it was nice of them to throw some "business" Gene Locke's way in the name of "due diligence."
Outside legal bills resulting from researching possible disciplinary actions against [METRO CEO] Greanias, along with related matters such as studying case law concerning the Open Records requests that would likely follow, cost $14,560, according to Metro.Documentation for legal work, done between July 17 and July 31 by the firm of Andrews Kurth LLP, listed a total of 20 items – 17 of which were related, at least in part, to the fallout from the pornography-viewing incidents.
Greanias was suspended July 28, which means all but three of the legal tabs took place prior to the board’s decision to suspend him. The last three pertinent entries are for preparation for the July 28 board meeting and “review of potential statutory consideration (civil and criminal) as requested.”
The pornography suspension-related tabs cost taxpayers between $595 an hour and $170 an hour. The bulk of the total went to Andrews Kurth partner Gene Locke, who is also Metro’s special counsel.
A more just outcome would have involved calling in proper legal authorities to investigate Greanias's apparent affinity for gay-child-porn sites, instructing Mr. Locke to draw up termination papers (for less than $14,000!), and telling the disgraced METRO CEO to take a hike.
Photo of George Greanias via METRO website.
25 September 2011
News and views roundup (25 September 2011 edition)
Here are a few stories that caught my eye upon returning from vacation, in addition to the ones Anne Linehan blogged about in my absence:
- VA agrees not to censor prayer at Houston cemetery - Lindsay Wise, Houston Chronicle
The documents state that VA will pay attorneys fees and expenses of $215,000, but the government admits no liability or fault, and stresses that some provisions of the agreement already were policy or practice at the department.
Under the settlement, VA would agree "not to ban, regulate or otherwise interfere with prayers, recitations, or words of religious expression absent family objection" and to allow veterans' families to hold services with any religious or secular content they desire.
So, one asinine bureaucrat -- who apparently still, inexplicably, has her job -- cost taxpayers a cool $215K. Nicely done.
- FBI investigates possible corruption at HCC - Ericka Mellon, Houston Chronicle
Another Houston-area quasi-governmental agency, another scandal. That's the Houston Way
- County attorney blasts the way Port does business - Mike Morris, Houston Chronicle
- Harris County releases Port of Houston report - Wayne Dolcefino, KTRK-13 News
- Houston ISD postpones strengthening ethics policies - Jennifer Peebles, Texas Watchdog
- Port Authority shake-up doesn't appear forthcoming - Chris Moran and Mike Morris, Houston Chronicle
- Houston housing model attracting worldwide attention - Houston Strategies
Wait, Houston has done something right historically? One would hardly know from the writings of the "smart" crowd in town (Chron columnists, Houston Tomorrow and other Houtopians).
- Houston, We Have a Solution - Mario Loyola, NRO
- Metro clears federal hurdle for $900M in rail grants - Carol Christian, Houston Chronicle
"A year after blocking $900 million in Metro light-rail grants over a botched rail-car procurement, the Federal Transit Administration has told Congress it intends to approve the grant agreements.
Most of the money is still subject to annual congressional appropriations....
That last is the kicker, really. In case some of the light-rail utopians haven't noticed, the federal government is broke.
- President touts Houston transit in jobs speech - David Crossley, Houston Tomorrow
A failing president touting a failing transit organization (with its disgraced, child-porn-viewing CEO). How fitting!
20 September 2011
Commissioner Eversole resigns
Jerry Eversole, the long-time Precinct 4 commissioner, tendered his resignation yesterday afternoon:
Eversole submitted a resignation letter to County Judge Ed Emmett's office at 2 p.m. About 4 p.m., the U.S. Attorney's Office filed court documents that suggest Eversole's resignation was part of negotiations with prosecutors that could see him and his co-defendant plead guilty to lesser charges, legal experts said.
"I ran for this job to try to solve problems, and then I looked in the mirror one day and I was the problem," Eversole said. "I wanted to allow Harris County government to get me out of their system and get a person in there to start running Precinct 4 in their way."
Judge Emmett will appoint a successor by October 1st.
The "genius" of paying kids to do well in school
It boggles the mind that the public education industry has come to this -- and, warning! you might need a flowchart to keep up with this seven paragraph blog post at Chron.com's School Zone:
Roland Fryer, the Harvard University economics professor who is consulting with the Houston Independent School District on the Apollo school reform program, won a coveted $500,000 “genius grant,” according to an announcement today.
The no-strings-attached grant, awarded to 22 recipients in all this year, comes from the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The award is based on Fryer’s body of work and is not tied to the 34-year-old’s consulting and research gig with HISD, which started last school year. But the foundation noted Fryer’s other research into public education, including the impact of paying students to improve performance.
Whew! That's pure genius -- paying kids to do well in school. Don't miss the rest of the blog post and the comments.
I don't know what the answer is for HISD, but sure hope Fryer can come through with whatever he sold Superintendent Grier, because if he doesn't, it's the kids who lose. The experts and the well-placed bureaucrats always do very well for themselves. That's how these things work. And doesn't it seem as though every time we turn around, there's a NEW educational expert with some NEW idea about how to elevate student performance? Bribery doesn't seem like a long-term, winning strategy.
18 September 2011
Houston Press: The Red Light Camera Circus
The Houston Press has one of its in-depth articles on the Red Light Camera Circus. The entire article is well worth reading, but here's a tasty snippet:
Finally, on August 24, the issue reached a breaking point. Rumors of abysmal mayoral polls floated from politico to politico; some claimed they heard Parker's support was in the 20 percents. It was no longer about safety or even revenue. Rather, it became political. Nearly all city council members sprinted over to the side long held by council woman Jones: The cameras had to go. Finally, Parker brought to the council a vote to repeal the ordinance allowing red-light cameras — a vote that would mean the end of red-light cameras in Houston forever. All but council woman Sue Lovell voted to bring them down. Parker, with a little help from her friends on city council, changed sides for the last time. She ordered the cameras off, three months before Election Day.
Like any good pol, Mayor Parker isn't immune to the will of the voters:
Kubosh and his brother, Randy Kubosh, asked to hear where each council member stood on the issue. "If the council members are silent and won't say whether they're for or against, I recommend we vote against every elected official who's running next November," said Randy Kubosh, to a loud standing ovation quickly silenced by the mayor.
All in The Family (Gayle Fallon-style)
Four years ago, the Chron noted that Houston Federation of Teachers was keeping it all in the family by paying Gayle Fallon's son a $4,000 per month retainer to handle legal representation of teachers.
Last week, Texas Watchdog's Mike Cronin and Jennifer Peebles explored the topic and discovered that during a four year span, James Fallon was paid nearly half a million dollars for his legal expertise:
The Houston Federation of Teachers paid James Fallon III , the son of federation president Gayle Fallon, $477,687 between 2006-10 for “legal counsel to members,” according to disclosures the local union filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.
That is almost as much as the $521,755 paid to the other five law firms hired by the 7,000-member local union during that same time period, the disclosures show.
It also means the union paid Fallon more in legal fees than it paid its own general counsel, whose firm was paid just $232,000 in the same time frame, the records say.
Gayle Fallon and her son, James, both told Texas Watchdog that nepotism is not prohibited by the union.
“It's not a conflict with us,” Gayle Fallon said in a telephone interview.
Thus sayeth the arbiter of "shining star" management.
16 September 2011
METRO wants to add "civilian fare inspectors" to its payroll
Over at METRO's blog, Mary Sit addresses the issue of those who ride the Danger Train without paying. She said according to state code, only police officers can issue citations for not paying the fare. But METRO has an idea:
we are exploring the possibility of modifying the Texas Transportation Code to allow us to hire civilian fare inspectors. The earliest this could happen would be the 2013 Legislative session.
"Adding civilian fare inspectors could not only increase fare inspections but also permit better utilization of law enforcement resources with additional safety and security personnel," said Rodriguez. "As the METRO rail lines expand in the coming years, we will certainly explore all avenues to effectively and efficiently provide for the safety and security of those lines. A hybrid approach using both police officers and private security is worth a look."
What could possibly go wrong? With METRO, everything! But first, this is going to require a great acronym. Or scratch off cards. Maybe even a wrapped train.
Let's just imagine this scenario actually comes to pass...does this mean METRO PD would finally be freed up to police bus stops and Park and Pillages. Will METRO look to Houston and its success with the Mobility Response Scooter Corps?
So many questions...
Temporary smoking ban in parks due to drought
Mayor Parker signed an executive order banning smoking in city parks (KPRC-2):
The smoking ban applies to lighted cigars, cigarettes, pipes or any other device used for the burning of tobacco or other plant material.
Last week, the use of barbecue grills and other outdoor burning was banned in city parks because of the exceptional drought conditions.
12 September 2011
There will be a candlelight vigil Tuesday night for the two precious children who were killed yesterday evening in Spring. The vigil will begin at 8:30 at the Church at Creek's End, 20010 Kuykendahl, south of FM 2920.
06 September 2011
We're putting the little blog (and ourselves) on vacation for a couple of weeks.
Here's hoping the cooler weather continues, with rain added to the mix...
04 September 2011
An unsurprising Chron/METRO omission...
One of the top?
The Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of Houston Area Pastor Council, read a letter to board chairman Gilbert Garcia from the council and Houston Ministers Against Crime.
The letter asked for a law enforcement investigation into whether Greanias' web surfing broke the law. Pending such an investigation, the group is calling for Greanias' suspension.
The Rev. William Lawson, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church's retired pastor, called Greanias "a man of competency," while Minister Robert Muhammad of Mosque No. 45 said Metro's CEO is "one of the top."
Apparently, neither the Chronicle reporter nor her editors saw any need to note that "supporter" Robert Muhammad also is a contractor for METRO.
There was not much reason for anyone to go down and voice displeasure with the METRO Board's tacit approval of their disgraced CEO's apparent adolescent gay-porn surfing habits, since it was clear when the METRO board circumvented any law-enforcement investigation into Greanias' activities that the fix was in.
02 September 2011
Rick Casey retiring from Chronicle, to be replaced by Patricia Kilday Hart
Yesterday, Harvey Kronberg noted that Chronicle metro/state columnist Rick Casey will be retiring, to be replaced by Patricia Kilday Hart.
There won't be much change in ideology, as both are reliably left of center, nor is the Houston focus likely to improve (Casey always came across as the San Antonio careerist he was when Jeff Cohen brought him over, and Hart has long covered the Austin/statehouse political scene). However, Hart probably will bring a little more energy to the column, and she doesn't appear to be a demonstrated plagiarist like Casey, so that represents an upgrade for the Chronicle.
Chronicle editor Jeff Cohen sent out a memo to staff about his favorite columnist's retirement. Parts of it are so over the top that we've reproduced the whole thing after the jump. Enjoy!