The Insider

The appointees apparently are not the only ones who've neglected their responsibilities. Commission chairman Katz points out that not only has Laguarta's term expired, but so have those of the other 13 appointed members of the commission (which has two vacancies). Asked when the mayor plans to either reappoint the current commissioners or name new ones, Weikerth said that his boss, mayoral chief of staff Jimmie Schindewolf, "is looking into that even as we speak."

Schindewolf's wife, by the way, is also on the Planning Commission and is not a Houston resident -- but at least she lives in the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Profiles in Courage, Chapter One
You know the 1997 mayoral race is just around the corner, because former police chief, current Rice professor and soon-to-be contender Lee P. Brown is actually starting to talk like a candidate -- even to the point of (gulp!) taking a stand on an issue or two. Of course, when you analyze Brown's positions, he winds up sounding exactly like ... Mayor Bob Lanier.

For starters, Brown -- who'll need to attract a sizable share of the low-income black vote to patch together a winning Kathy Whitmire-style coalition -- has come out against the proposal on the January 18 ballot to raise the minimum wage in Houston to $6.50 an hour.

"I grew up as a farm worker, picking cotton and cutting grapes," said Brown, quickly establishing his underclass credentials before sounding the traditional wisdom on the "Living Wage" initiative. "But in this instance, I think it's a bad proposal."

Brown claims a higher minimum wage will hurt small businesses and possibly drive some out of the city -- exactly the argument voiced by Lanier, who generally favors higher wages but believes the proposal will put Houston employers at a disadvantage.

The ex-chief also mirrors Lanier on the other January 18 ballot measure, the proposed city charter change requiring voters to approve tax and fee increases above a certain level.

"I think we have to give some level of credibility to our elected officials. We elect people to make decisions -- that's what democracy is about," he said.

And the downtown stadium?
You guessed it -- Brown's all for it, claiming a new ballpark will provide jobs and help redevelop downtown.

"I also believe our city should have major sports," he elaborated, "that we shouldn't lose our sports teams to other cities."

All well and good, but hardly the stuff to incite a "Brown for Mayor" groundswell in the populace. And when we put the touchy issue of the Kingwood annexation to the professor, we were treated to a return of the vintage "No Rap" Brown, that guy who famously loves to talk his way down both sides of an issue while not saying much of anything.

If you're talking about the people in Kingwood, obviously they're not too excited about joining the city," observed Brown. "If it was put to the people of the city of Houston, I think you'd have an affirmative vote."

Thanks for the weather report, chief, but how would "Mayor Lee Brown" have voted?

After some additional rhetorical tap-dancing by Brown, we finally pinned him down -- sort of -- by just asking if he supported Lanier's position on the annexation.

"That's a clear 'yes,' " Brown replied. "That's an easy one."
Yeah, but not as easy as actually annexing Kingwood.

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