The Insider

24-Hour Call
So who did Glenbrook Golf Course operator Art Lopez ring on his C-phone after he was involved in a car accident and arrested for DWI shortly before 1 a.m. one night last week? None other than state Senator Mario Gallegos, who responded by driving to the West Loop scene to check on his good friend. Gallegos, who lobbied Mayor Bob Lanier on behalf of Lopez Management's bid to take over the operations of two other municipal courses, did not respond to our request for comment on his redeye constituent service (which apparently entailed calling Lopez's wife and contacting a bail bondsman for him). However, a Gallegos associate notes that the lawmaker is a former firefighter, so perhaps he was simply brushing up on his EMS training on his late-night run across town.

Malpractice?
Elsewhere on the parks and rec front, the Press has learned that former pro soccer player Doc Lawson, the director of the much-applauded (by the mayor, anyway) Houston Metropolitan Youth Soccer League, is under investigation by the United States Soccer Federation, the sport's governing body. The probe was prompted by a complaint to the federation from Sandy Briggs, the executive director of the Soccer Industry Council of America, a trade association representing equipment manufacturers. Among Briggs' charges is that Lawson leveraged his position as a federation board member to obtain a $190,000 grant for the Houston program. Briggs also questioned whether Lawson had used federation cash to further his private business interests, including his job with Houston. "There is reason to suspect that Lawson has been using committee funds to further his career as an independent consultant," Briggs wrote the federation.

Lawson refused to discuss the investigation with the Press, saying it had nothing to do with the Houston program. "That's all being handled by the federation," he said. "It's all in the attorneys' hands." The federation's executive director, Hank Steinbrecher, did not respond to our phone inquiries, and New York lawyer Peter Alkalay, who is conducting the investigation at the federation's request, declined to comment. But the allegations have yielded at least one result: at a recent federation meeting, according to Briggs, the Cross-Cultural Committee, which Lawson chairs, was stripped of its funding.

Next: The Solid-Oak Dresser Vault
One of the funniest things we've read recently was Jim McIngvale's op-ed piece in the August 11 Chronicle, wherein Houston's would-be Billy Payne tried to justify his unsanctioned freelance bid to bring a future Olympics to Texas. After explaining why he won't sign on with Councilman John Kelley's official effort to land the Olympics for Houston (something about it lacking a "coherent" plan and being too politicized), Mattress Mac went on to declare that Houston could help itself by avoiding the rampant consumerism and overemphasis on U.S. athletes that characterized the Atlanta games. This from the provider of the "official furniture of the 1996 Olympics," who mercilessly pummeled local TV viewers with those flag-waving commercials featuring Kerri Strug and that other U.S. gymnast from the McIngvale-funded Karolyi compound. You're slaying us, Mac ....

Ain't Dead Yet
The predicted calf scramble of candidates in the new court-sculpted congressional districts hasn't materialized, and may not before the August 30 deadline to get on the ballot for the "open to all comers" races. With good reason: the revised boundaries do little to endanger any of the incumbents, with the possible exception of Democrat Ken Bentsen, whose 25th District now has a slight (and hypothetical) majority of Republican-minded voters. But despite the loss of blacks in Fort Bend County and the addition of affluent whites in Bellaire and West University Place, Bentsen's district is still very winnable for a Democrat with money, name I.D. and a moderately liberal voting record -- in other words, someone like Ken Bentsen. Bellaire and West U are home to a sizable number of ticket-splitters, and have previously elected a Democrat, Sue Schechter, to the state House.

That hasn't stopped other Republicans from queuing up to join lawyer Brent Perry, who was set to go against Bentsen as the GOP nominee in the now-extinct 25th. First in was Jim Hotze, the owner of a computer printer company, who'll be putting the last name made locally famous (or notorious) by brother Steve to its first electoral test. Others are expected to follow, but so far no big-name Republican capable of raising serious money has stepped into the fray.

Meanwhile, over in the new 8th District, Eugene Fontenot, who must be addicted to running for Congress, has again thrown his apparently bottomless wallet in the ring. Isn't there some sort of 12-step recovery program available for this guy?

She Probably Could Use a Vacation
The Insider received no reports of Ben Reyes sightems last week, but one of our correspondents did claim to have seen FBI sting dupe Betti Maldonado perusing travel books on Argentina and Uruguay at the Bookstop on South Shepherd.

Tim Fleck is on vacation this week. In his absence, The Insider was compiled by Anonymous. The Insider can be reached by calling 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax), or by e-mail at insider@houston-press.com.

 
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