03 April 2008

Hubert Vo's "next step toward positive change": ridding himself of slumlord status! (updated)

When state Rep. Hubert Vo (D-Houston) kicked off his reelection campaign, he said:

"We've come a long way in a short time, and now we have a chance to take the next step toward positive change," Vo said. "Let's consolidate the gains of the past three years and move forward together to make our schools better, our families healthier, and our community stronger."

As today's news highlights, he could have done his own part toward making some families healthier and a community stronger:

City building inspectors on Wednesday issued several safety citations against an East End apartment complex owned by state Rep. Hubert Vo.

The citations to the Courtyard Apartments on Villa de Matel allege eight structural and electrical problems, including rotting wood, missing balcony railings, loose boards and broken windows, city officials said.

"There were the kinds of things you'd see in a building that has not been well-maintained," said Susan McMillian, a senior staff analyst in the city's Public Works and Engineering Department. "It needed more intense maintenance than what had been done."

Homeowners in the nearby County Club neighborhood have complained about the property for years, calling it a visual blight and a magnet for crime.

"It's really a deplorable situation, and the sad thing is that people are actually living there," said Charles Mayfield, a member of the area's Super Neighborhood Council. "It's really disheartening to see, and surprising, to say the least, that anybody — no matter who they are — would let the property get into such a condition."

The Chron's Matt Stiles visited the property today and has posted pictures of the dilapidated building on the Houston Politics blog. Stiles also recounts how the property manager tried to shoo him away; however, readers will not be surprised that Stiles wasn't deterred -- he soon was given a tour of the complex to see ongoing repair work.

Let's visit Vo's website again:

Hubert has been responsive when people in District 149 needed help. He led a three year battle against TXDOT’s efforts to build two very unpopular overpasses in the district. When developers attempted to bring more state funded multi-family housing projects to the Highway 6 area he was able to protect the already over-crowded schools and over extended infrastructure in those areas by stopping the new construction. He went to bat for homeowners along the West Park Tollroad for much needed sound walls and he has fought against developers wanting to build houses on a closed landfill in the district. Time and time again he has fought and won for the district.

Too bad he wasn't fighting for decent living conditions for the residents in his apartment buildings.

UPDATE: A reader emails that Vo's $4.5 million abode is for sale. Asking price -- $4.7 million. He's probably just been waiting for it to sell so he could afford needed improvements to his other properties.

I'll bet there aren't any rats in the mansion.

BLOGVERSATION: Lose an Eye, It's a Sport, Texas Liberal.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 04/03/08 07:22 PM |


04 March 2008

Is Quanell the Tenth the new Bob Stein?

Remember when Rice professor and bicyclist Bob Stein used to turn up in the local media all the time, as an expert on everything?

Although he's not really an expert on everything, Quanell the Tenth also seems to turn up all the time in media reports, for reasons that have never been entirely clear. A bemused reader passed along this latest instance from a Chronicle story:

Led by community activist Quanell X, residents of a southwest Houston apartment complex began a grass-roots search Sunday to catch a serial rapist.

Raina Williams, 34, said she wishes someone would come forward with information that would lead to the arrest of the suspect, who police believe has attacked at least four women since September.

"It will be nice if he is caught because it's scary, very scary. Sometimes you don't have a person to meet you at the bus stop," said Williams, who lives with her 11-year-old daughter, 22-year-old sister and her sister's 2-year-old daughter.

Houston police have said they believe the same man has sexually assaulted three women in the 9300 block of Dairy View and one in the 9400 block of Dairy Ashford. They believe the man lives in the area.

Quanell, who along with four other men passed out fliers with composite sketches of the suspect Sunday, said the community wants police and area apartment complexes to increase security. "And we are saying to the rapist, it would be wise if you turn yourself in because if you don't, when the community catches you, we will whip your rusty, raggedy behind," Quanell said.

Allrighty then!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 03/04/08 08:18 AM |


06 February 2008

Chris Baker will head to Minnesota

Mike McGuff passes along word that former KTRH-740/KPRC-950 talker Chris Baker will be headed to Minneapolis, where he'll do an early morning show for KLTK-100.3.

The folks at Radio-Info are discussing the move here.

Best of luck to Chris in the COLD north. Brrr!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 02/06/08 11:24 AM |


05 February 2008

You decide 2008: Is Borris Miles a "gangsta" or a hugger?

The Chronicle's Allan Turner profiles some of the hits and misses of state Rep. Borris Miles:

At first glance, the June 30 concert at Reliant Arena might have seemed just a routine hip-hop affair. But this one was different. Even though 7,500 teens and young adults turned out to hear Lil' Wayne, J Xavier, Mista Madd and a host of other hip-hop celebrities, the only way to get into this event was to be tested for HIV.

Hip Hop 4 HIV was the brainchild of freshman state Rep. Borris Miles, a flamboyant insurance agent-turned-politician whose heavily black District 146 accounts for three-fourths of Harris County's HIV infections.

To Miles' supporters, the concert was characteristic of the fresh thinking the legislator had brought to his inner-city district after a surprise 2006 runoff victory over 27-year incumbent Al Edwards. But even as backers celebrate Miles' innovations, others are concerned about a series of incidents involving the lawmaker that ranged from awkward to frightening.

The episodes culminated in December when Miles crashed a party at the posh St. Regis Hotel. Party host David Harris said a drunken Miles shocked guests with loud, profane language before planting a Godfather-style "kiss of death" on his cheeks, handing him a pistol and declaring,"You don't know what I'm capable of doing."

After proclaiming himself a "gangsta," Miles then allegedly kissed a female guest on the lips while her husband was away from the table.

Prosecutors are scrutinizing the episode. Meanwhile, the female recipient of Miles' unsolicited smooch filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages and demanding the lawmaker be tested for HIV. A hearing is set for Feb. 15.

Other moments include Miles' unilateral decision to censor an anti-death penalty art exhibit at the State Capitol and his profane chastisement of former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell at a downtown party.

Miles, gearing up for a March primary rematch with Edwards, declined to comment on the Harris and Bell incidents. He defends his art exhibit action.

If Rep. Miles wants to call himself a "gangsta," we aren't going to argue with him (we wouldn't want to provoke unwanted groping and/or smooching, after all).

Several days earlier, KHOU-11's Leigh Frillici scored an interview with the "gangsta" lawmaker, who noted that he likes to hug people.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 02/05/08 01:10 AM |


10 January 2008

Godspeed, little Frisky

The Simon family has lost another precious kitty -- Frisky, a very fluffy kitty indeed.

One of the funniest things Frisky did was to race outside on those occasions Laurence let him out. Laurence caught the hilarity on video one time, but I can't find it. If I recall correctly, one of those racing adventures led to Frisky getting lost for a day or so, and after he finally returned home, that was the end of the Frisky Races.

He's now free to race again, with his buddies Edloe and Piper cheering him on.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 01/10/08 08:46 AM |


09 January 2008

Thoughts on the Rosenthal email flap (parts two and three)

We return to the topic of Chuck Rosenthal and email.

As described in part one, the overly romantic emails from Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal to a female subordinate were bad enough (maybe if she had just been an intern... but we digress).

Then there was the matter of deleting emails (part two -- which didn't even get its own post because we've moved on so quickly to part three). While we're not entirely sure that the public's right to know legally requires that all emails to/from public officials be preserved forever, we're pretty sure that when a federal judge is interested in the emails, it's not a good idea to go deleting hundreds of them.

And finally, there is the matter of another batch of recently released emails to/from Rosenthal that have been described by various journalists and bloggers as misogynistic, racist, and pornographic for starters. Oh, and throw in some (likely illegal) politicking too.

[Read More]

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 01/09/08 11:34 PM |


02 January 2008

New GHCVB leader to focus on Houston's strengths

Today's Chronicle runs an L.M. Sixel Q & A with the GHCVB's new leader, Greg Ortale. Here's an excerpt:

What I really want to do is to tie our convention solicitations with the economic demographics of the city.

We're the energy capital so it makes sense to go after the energy conventions.

It's the same with the Medical Center.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of meetings.

Secondly, because we are a global city I want to go after international meetings and symposia and conferences. Why shouldn't the international AIDS conference be in Houston?

The third is really to position Houston as an international tourist destination.

Q: Are you building relationships with people in the Medical Center and NASA and the engineering industries who have the ties to bring conventions and meetings to Houston?

A: Some of them already exist and some are yet to be built. We're moving in that direction.

He also says there aren't enough hotel rooms in downtown for mid-range conventions that require between 2,500 and 5,000 rooms. Hopefully that's not an invitation for a government entity to build a hotel...again.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 01/02/08 07:51 AM |


30 December 2007

Michael Berry worries about Big Brother...sometimes

This Chronicle story on new state laws that take effect in 2008 reminds me of something I meant to pass on before Christmas.

One of the new laws requires most employees of a school district to be fingerprinted for a background check. When the story first came out a couple of weeks ago, I heard Michael Berry doing a promo for his afternoon show, asking if the new law was another example of Big Brother running amok.

This from the guy who said that anyone opposed to red light cameras was obviously in favor of people running red lights.

Sheesh.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/30/07 11:45 AM |


06 December 2007

Chris Baker at the Laff Spot

Former KTRH-740 talker Chris Baker is going to be part of the opening comedy act at the Laff Spot-Willowbrook this weekend, for O'Brien and Valdez.

They're set to go from from December 6 (tonight) through December 9 (Sunday).

More information is available from the Laff Spot website.

I'm likely to hit the early Friday show, so any blogHOUSTONians who wander in should feel free to say hello!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/06/07 01:39 PM |


07 November 2007

Cooley, DeBakey put "feud" to rest

Clear Thinker Tom Kirkendall calls attention to this story by the Chronicle's Todd Ackerman, on the rapprochement of two Houston and medical giants:

It's considered one of medicine's best-known feuds: two brilliant and egotistical doctors on the frontiers of cardiovascular surgery, whose falling-out divided a community and became the stuff of legend.

Immortalized in a Life magazine cover story, the rift persisted for decades. Although the competition spurred them to achievements that transformed the Texas Medical Center into the world's heart treatment center, the former collaborators avoided each other and barely spoke.

But recently, Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley buried the hatchet.

"I'm glad the rivalry may have passed by," Cooley said on Oct. 27, presenting DeBakey with a lifetime achievement award at a meeting of Cooley's Cardiovascular Surgical Society. "I hope this is not just a temporary truce or cease-fire (but) ... a permanent treaty between us."

DeBakey, 99, responded that he was glad to be there for two reasons: "One is, I'm alive. And the other, of course, is to get this award. Denton, I am really touched by it."

DeBakey downplayed the idea of a rivalry — he called it "the concoction of a journalist" — and said he has the highest respect for Cooley and what he has done. He said he would "treasure" the award and find a place for it in his library.

At the ceremony's end, he motioned for Cooley to come closer to him for the photos.

DeBakey and Cooley helped to build the Texas Medical Center into one of the best medical complexes in the world. Ackerman's account of their reconciliation is a fine read.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 11/07/07 11:13 PM |


30 October 2007

Lifestyles of the well-heeled (cont'd)

We missed this gem from a few days ago by the Chronicle's Mike Tolson:

Love the Texans but hate fighting traffic on game days? You might consider catching a ride with team owner Bob McNair and his family, who get a three-officer motorcycle police escort from his River Oaks mansion to Reliant Stadium's front door.

Bob McNair
Traffic lights are no obstacle. The officers pull into the intersections and put up their hands to stop all other traffic as the two McNair vehicles breeze on through. Total time in transit? Less than 15 minutes.

McNair has been paying off-duty officers for an escort since the team's first season in 2002. Publicity about it prompted Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Jack Abercia to prohibit his officers from doing the extra work, but McNair found officers from other agencies to step in.

McNair spokesman Tony Wylie said there is nothing wrong with the VIP treatment and that he is not breaking any laws.

"He's just hiring this service to escort him from his home so that he can get there on time," Wylie said.

Let me get this right -- there's nothing wrong with someone hiring cops to help him violate traffic laws (i.e. running traffic lights), so long as the person has enough money and is in a big hurry.

Real nice attitude.

One wonders why traffic on gameday is much of a problem at all, though, given the absolutely putrid product that McNair and crew have put on the field every year of the franchise's existence.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 10/30/07 06:17 PM |


16 October 2007

DeBakey receives top civilian honor

The Chronicle's Michelle Mittelstadt reports that legendary surgeon Michael DeBakey has received the nation's top civilian honor:

With a stroke of his pen today, President Bush officially conferred the nation's highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, on famed Houston heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey.

Bush's action caps a four-year effort by Texans in Congress to honor the 99-year-old, whose surgical and technical innovations have improved the practice of medicine over more than a half century.

The next step is the design and minting of the one-of-a-kind medal that will be presented to DeBakey at a congressional ceremony. The U.S. Mint, which will consult with DeBakey and his family on the design, will also mint duplicate medals for sale to the public.

Though the process typically takes a year or more and requires the approval of the Treasury secretary, various committees and the recipient, DeBakey's admirers are hoping to cut through the red tape and hold the ceremony within the next several months.

Well done. Now let's get moving on the official presentation.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 10/16/07 11:31 PM |


13 October 2007

On the Priscilla Slade jury...

Laurence Simon is confused.

So are we.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 10/13/07 09:17 AM |


17 September 2007

That's our Sheila Jackson Lee

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee made an appearance for KPRC-2 at Key Middle School today.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
The Congresswoman wore a breathing mask as she paraded through the school, complaining that the school should be shut down in light of several reported illnesses by students and staff. HISD contends that it has conducted multiple tests at the school, and hasn't found environmental problems.

The best part of this story, though, is that as she is touring the school, the Congresswoman actually stops, pulls her mask aside for a good camera shot, and proceeds to complain that people should be "out of here" until proper testing can be done. The video is available on the right side of the page here.

We wouldn't expect Sheila Jackson Lee to let allegedly hazardous airborne contaminants get in the way of a good camera shot!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 09/17/07 08:29 PM |


11 September 2007

Slade: To heck with students, so long as I get double points!

The trial of disgraced former TSU president Priscilla Slade is continuing, and the Chronicle's Brian Rogers has an update on Slade's carefree spending of the institution's funds:

Standing in front of a mountain of cardboard boxes filled with crystal, fine china and silverware, the former assistant of ousted TSU President Priscilla Slade testified this afternoon that the school paid almost $40,000 for the 25-person dining set.

Priscilla Slade
She also testified that it was tax-free, because of Texas Southern University's tax-free status.

The woman who handled some facets of the finances for the president's office, Erica Vallier, testified that the $39,793.75 bill from Neiman Marcus was paid from funds that were meant for equipment and furniture for the president's office.

Slade is accused of spending more than $500,000 of the cash-strapped university's dollars on personal expenses, including renovations to her house, drapes and bedding.

KRIV-26's Isiah Carey points out that Slade was also earning some serious Neiman Marcus rewards points with her/TSU's purchases:

Prosecutors say Dr. Priscilla Slade took abuse to a new level at Texas Southern University. Assistant District Attorney Donna Goode says Dr. Slade went out and purchased $39,000 in crystal china so that she could earn double points on her Neiman Marcus credit card. It's part of the stores InCircle Friends buying awards program. Goode says Slade purchased the expensive eating ware through TSU and had her staff research if she would be able to claim bonus points on her personal Neiman's card.

It apparently wasn't enough to bilk the university (and the public) with her overly lavish lifestyle, but she had to make sure she got the personal reward points as well? Slade is even more audacious than I originally thought.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 09/11/07 09:40 PM |


06 September 2007

Is this what you expect from an elected official?

Get a load of this: Residents complain about prostitution in their neighborhood, police investigate, someone is busted, that someone hires a local elected official as a defense attorney, and the local elected official gets that someone off the hook.

KHOU-11's Jeff McShan has the details:

So, when residents recently called to complain about prostitution that was allegedly operating out of a spa business in their neighborhood, the complaints made it all the way up to the 16th floor to Police Chief Harold Hurtt's office, and then HPD's vice division was told to take a look.

After an undercover investigation at the business that was called Spa Goz and after reviewing the completed file the Harris County District Attorney's office charged 37-year-old [Name Redacted By Request] with prostitution.

The prosecutor believed he had a strong case, so did the defendant who hired attorney Ronald Green.

That’s Houston City Councilman Ronald Green.

“I believe that everyone is entitled to a defense. Part of my job as a lawyer is to provide defense, but also part of my job as a city council member is to make sure the city of Houston and HPD makes good cases,” Green said, defending his participation in the case.

Green’s defense strategy proved to be successful. A judge ruled that HPD's evidence against Smith was not good enough and she was found not guilty.

Sources inside the D.A.'s office and HPD tell 11 News it’s frustrating to fight crime for the citizens of Houston and then to have one of their leaders fight back at them.

Look at the bolded statement from Councilman Green. There is absolutely no other way he can think of to help HPD build good cases than to go against the citizens he supposedly represents? Or maybe he doesn't. Which councilmember DOES represent the residents who complained about the prostitution business? I wonder what he or she thinks of Councilman Green's actions?

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 09/06/07 08:22 PM |


22 August 2007

Buh bye, Billy Burge

Longtime Sports Authority Chairman Billy Burge has decided (agreed?) to leave the quasi-governmental agency:

Billy Burge, who played a major role in building Houston's three professional sports venues, will not be reappointed to the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority.

Burge said he had served long enough on the authority — 10 years — and Mayor Bill White said he wanted to inject new blood into the authority.

Commissioners Court recommended Tuesday that the authority's vice chair, J. Kent Friedman, take the chairman's job.

White also has nominated Friedman, and the City Council will take up the matter at an upcoming meeting.

The authority's chairman must be approved by Commissioners Court and the City Council.

It appears a bit of a power struggle contributed to the decision:

Burge said his decision to leave the authority comes two months after he asked the board to consider whether Janis Schmees, hired as the authority's executive director a year ago, should be replaced. The board rejected the idea.

"Janis Schmees is doing an excellent job, hustling and trying to find sporting events for Houston," Friedman said.

During that same meeting, the board debated the chairman's role and whether the chairman could make decisions without the board's approval.

Burge said he helped make executive decisions at the sports authority in the six months between former executive director Oliver Luck's resignation and Schmees' hiring last summer.

"Last week, I visited with (Burge), and he said he wanted to move on," White said. "I think it's good for boards and chairs to turn over from time to time."

We still agree with Paul Bettencourt and Tom Kirkendall: The Sports Authority's mission is complete; the agency should be dissolved. There are other local agencies that can be "hustling and trying to find sporting events for Houston."

But, back to Mr. Burge: Now he can fill his days attending Grand Parkway meetings, and supporting Harris County Judge Ed Emmett in his election bid.

But he probably doesn't have a future in radio.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 08/22/07 07:59 PM |


19 August 2007

If only the proletariat would rally around the visionary architect-councilmember...

In her weekly politics column, the Chronicle's Kristen Mack profiles Councilmember Peter Brown, who desperately wants to be Houston's next boss, er, mayor. Here are some interesting excerpts:

Brown suffers from rich guy syndrome — he's the only council member who has original artwork from Monet and Picasso hanging in the hallways of his home — which causes him to be idealistic and creates blind spots in his thinking.

Architect-Councilmember Peter Brown
[snip]

Government's job, Brown says, is to create a middle class and increase the creation of wealth. That requires a vision, which leads to a plan, policy, standards and then continuity.

[snip]

Brown is in the process of considering whether he can be a visionary mayor for the city of Houston. He's already adopted a potential platform: creating a global, green and good city. By that he means creating a "quality of place to attract people here," more parks and open space and addressing social issues head on.

Brown says he is being drafted to run for mayor in 2009. A group of friends, led by lawyer Jim Robertson, have formed an exploratory committee encouraging him to run.

Ah yes, the old reliable "Draft X" movement formed by "friends." For the good of the city (Peter Brown), county (Charles Bacarisse), state (Rick Noriega), or country (Fred Thompson/Al Gore). Completely spontaneously, of course! *wink*

Quite a few people likely share Councilmember Brown's concern for quality-of-life issues. However, one suspects that most Houstonians don't share Councilmember Brown's views on using the heavy hand of government to force folks to abide by the whims/wisdom of elitist planners like the Architect-Councilmember, who sometimes seems as out of touch with everyday middle-class life as Stanley Fish! For that reason, it seems unlikely we'll be calling him Architect-Mayor Brown in a few years, however much money he decides to spend on the race.

Matt Stiles has posted the Peter Brown Manifesto to the NewsWatch: City Hall blog. It is an entertaining read.

BLOGVERSATION: Lose an Eye, It's a Sport.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 08/19/07 04:21 PM |


29 July 2007

Marvin Zindler, 1921-2007

Marvin Zindler, 1921-2007

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/29/07 07:36 PM |


LA Times profiles Quanell the Tenth

Houston's own Quanell the Tenth was profiled this week in the LA Times. Here's an excerpt:

Quanell X was once just Quanell Evans, a Houston street urchin from a shattered home who was slinging crack and staring at a future he knew would put him in prison or a coffin before age 25.

He sought a new start through the Nation of Islam, but his hate-filled diatribes against white America — which have included anti-Semitic remarks and exhortations to "mug you some good white folks" — proved too much even for a black Muslim organization used to helping angry hoodlums out of the gutter.

So he left to join a splinter group of gun-toting black separatists, and he advocated racial justice by any means necessary in a misguided fantasy that he was the new Malcolm X — a self-aggrandizing pose that brought him more ridicule than respect.

Now 36, Quanell X is morphing again, this time into a self-appointed spokesman for the black underclass that he came from, and his services are in high demand.

"They come to me because they know I am not afraid to challenge the powers that be," he said. "I'm not tiptoeing through the tulips and pussyfooting around. I'm saying what other people think but don't have the courage to say."

RELATED: Who is Quanell X? (Owen Courrèges, Chronically Biased).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/29/07 01:41 PM |


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