By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Yeah, I voted for Proposition One -- closed my eyes, held my nose, crossed my fingers and then baaaaaa-ed like the pathetic sheep I am. I guess when it came right down to it, I didn't want the Astros to go, and I'm not that much of a baseball fan.
I could find a few other justifications: I make it a policy to vote for anything Barry Klein is against -- that's about everything, right? -- and besides, my inner life is so attenuated that I could actually imagine myself having fun whiling away a summer afternoon in a cozy little downtown ballpark.
Perhaps you had other reasons, if you were among the slim majority of 300,000 or so county residents who voted to give Drayton McLane a stadium and let the county proceed with whatever-it-is-they're-gonna-do to the Astrodome. Among the handful of people I spoke to who admitted to voting for Proposition One, the reasoning usually ran along these lines: Every other big city is doing it; if we don't we'll lose another sports franchise; I don't want to live in a town without major-league baseball ... and besides, a new stadium would be fun.
Those really aren't good reasons, but they were typical of the fear and cynicism that drove the stadium debate and will continue to, as we realize that a new ballpark and a renovated Astrodome are far from done deals, and that another referendum to keep the Rockets in town -- Bob Lanier says there should be one; Ken Lay disagrees -- is in the offing.
But we should be grateful there was any debate at all, since it looked at the outset as if the proponents were going to coast on their "trust us" assurances. They would have lost. That they won, and that there was a semblance of debate, is due in part to Klein, an ideologue and busybody who nonetheless makes his opponents work or die, and more so to Dan Patrick, who, at least from what I could glean from the Chronicle and the Prop One advocates, was the only person on either side of the issue motivated by self-interest (every point he raised being immediately invalid because one of his stations had lost the broadcast rights to the Astros games).
Even with the debate, there was still much the discerning voter had to ignore to get to the point where it was possible to punch the "For" hole, starting with the dearth of details on the financing and building of McLane's ballpark (you don't believe they can construct a ballpark with a retractable roof for $265 million, do you?).
It also was necessary to avert your mind from the Chronicle's editorial and sports pages, which enforced the downtown party line with a mind-numbing uniformity that would have shamed Pravda in wartime. Near the end, you could detect the hysteria just beneath the surface of the paper's sports columns, as the writers contemplated a future of high school volleyball and the Texas Terror. Theirs, surely, were considered, objective opinions -- untainted by any self-interest whatsoever -- and they'll all pay their own way into the new stadium.
What else? Let's see, there was the arrogant use of taxpayers' money to campaign for Proposition One through the assignment of mayoral aides to disseminate "information" (again, totally objective). You also had to act like El Mercado, the Brown Center, the Cordish project -- oh, sorry, that one's still to come -- and other grand schemes to revitalize close-in neighborhoods had never happened, and forget that it was the mayor himself who helped work us into an uproar at Bud Adams and greedy players and owners who hold their host cities hostage.
Actually, all that stuff was easy enough to ignore, but I had to reach down deep into my reserve of reality-avoidance on the weekend prior to the election when Citizens for Proposition One trotted out Sylvester Turner for a televised plug, thereby setting a new standard for desperate cynicism in abetting the attempted resurrection of that irredeemably tarnished scamp.
Turner's commercial only aired a few times, so you may have missed it, which made his late deployment all the more puzzling -- unless you figure the stadium promoters gave him the forum just to keep him from coming out against the proposition. Equally puzzling was the origin of last-minute pledge of 30 percent of the ballpark contracts to minority vendors. That promise was all well and good, especially if by off-chance it results in some deserving minority-owned firms that aren't politically wired getting some business, but I must have missed it when we elected McLane and Lay to negotiate such a pact.
Finally, I had to forget all about the defeat of the HISD bond proposal last May -- a denial of reality that was just too great a leap for others. The moral calculus on that one wasn't so simple: Many of the same entities that were the biggest supporters of Proposition One -- Lanier, Enron, Shell, Hines Interests, Texas Commerce, etc. -- were among the primary underwriters of the school bonds campaign, although their contributions on behalf of Proposition One were considerably greater. It would be presumptuous, though, to suggest they might have done more for the schools or less for McLane, since we've all made it clear what we consider important when the average teachers' salary in HISD is around $30,000 and Jeff Bagwell commands $6 million for playing a kids' game.