The Insider

Too JA-ded?

Caution: Falling Academics
It could be a long wait for Houstonians expecting -- or dreading -- a swift return by former mayor Kathy Whitmire from her Rocky Mountain high at Junior Achievement headquarters in Colorado Springs. Some associates suggest that Whitmire, a recent appointee to the New York Stock Exchange board, is leaving JA for a to-be-announced public sector appointment. Whitmire told The Insider that she tendered her resignation as JA's national president -- after only nine months on the $200,000-a-year job -- to allow the organization's board to deal with the vacancy at its meeting this month. She said she has several corporate offers on her platter.

While some old political foes mouthed sweet nothings about Whitmire's renowned ability to win enemies and alienate friends in record time, the fact that she's sticking at JA until September suggests it was a legitimate jump rather than a putsch. Next question: will onetime Whitmire Council ally and Houston attorney Anthony Hall, who joined JA's national board in December for a three-year stint at Whitmire's instigation, stay now that Kathy's moving on? We couldn't locate Hall, but Whitmire's response was curt: "Of course. Why wouldn't he?"

If Madame Defarge, Dickens' fictional knitter in the shadow of the guillotine, worked at the University of Houston the last two weeks, she'd have some worn-out needles by now. The latest casualty of the academic bloodbath, UH System Chancellor Alex Schilt, plopped his head into the basket last Friday with a resignation letter released in classic turkey-drop style, leading into a holiday weekend when even hardened news junkies skip their fixes.

"Dr. Schilt and Mrs. Morian [Beth, the regents chair] are out of town for the holiday weekend and are not available for comment," wrote UH System flack Wendy Adair as a preface to Alex's bye-bye. Presumably the two were not vacationing together, but given their joined-at-the-hip professional relationship during Schilt's tenure, you never know. Another regent confirmed that at the end, Morian was the only board member board still arguing for Schilt's staying.

The High Cost of Dying
By some accounts, Schilt did not go quietly. The chancellor visited Austin two weeks ago, as rumors of his impending departure circulated. Early the following week, state Senator Don Henderson, who's close to both Schilt and System lobbyist/vice president Grover Campbell, launched a short-lived effort to dissuade the regents from removing Schilt. Campbell dismissed as "ludicrous" any suggestion that he or Schilt organized the last-ditch stand.

Dr. Porter Storey, director of The Hospice in the Texas Medical Center, says families of terminally ill patients have complained to him that rising rates for obituaries in the Chronicle are making it impossible for them to announce the passing of loved ones in the time-honored tradition. In the wake of the Post's demise, the Chronicle raised rates on paid notices for non-working stiffs from $6.60 per line to $7.07, a 7 percent increase. That follows a 75-cent per line increase a few months ago. A photo in the obit costs another $65.34. Thus, under the new rates, a 100-line Chronicle obit for the Post (with pic of Dean Singleton) would cost $772.34.

And His Last Chairmanship?
State Senator John Whitmire, in the Austin American-Statesman, on why he took time off from the Legislature last Sunday to watch the Rockets: "Sunday is family day for us. I mean, I'm still working on my first wife, unlike some guys up here." Bob Bullock, are you listening?

The Insider is compiled by Tim Fleck, who's standing by to take your calls at 624-1483 (voice) or 624-1496 (fax).

 
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