Political Art

When Bob Lanier went after CACHH, maybe all he really wanted was a little respect

Looking across the table at Councilman John Peavy, Lanier wondered aloud why Peavy had gotten into so much trouble for conflict of interest for owning a share of a city franchise (an ice cream shop at Hobby Airport), when it was known that some of the directors of arts groups that received CACHH funds served on the CACHH board. Lanier wanted to know what kind of self-serving deal was that?

What went unmentioned was that one of the directors of arts groups serving on the CACHH board this year is Richard Reyes, of the Lanier-approved Talento Bilingue. When Reyes needed an emergency grant for his new 15,000-square-foot center, Lanier strong-armed CACHH into giving him a $60,000 grant. CACHH bylaws prohibit board members such as Reyes from voting on grants that affect them, and Reyes says he wasn't in the room when the mayor's request was passed.

Still, there's no missing Reyes' good fortune, though it apparently doesn't come from his sitting on the CACHH board (a board, incidentally, that now appears terrified of the mayor, and whose members failed to return calls when contacted for this story). There is a fundamental political problem with CACHH that runs against the mayor's apparent idea of what an arts program should do: CACHH's grants don't generate any political return for the mayor. And that's where Talento Bilingue is instructive. It's not CACHH that's made Talento Bilingue flush, it's the mayor. Thanks to Lanier, Talento Bilingue has raised $300,000 and is hosting a September 20 gala at the Four Seasons Hotel that's been underwritten for $25,000 by Wells Fargo Bank and a host of Lanier's friends. The gala is honoring -- who else? -- Bob and Elyse Lanier. Now that's how to run an arts organization.

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