By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
"A Lee Brown candidacy is something I wished and dreamed and cajoled and coerced for," said Lee. Kenny Calloway, the commissioner's political point man, circulated out in the crowd, sizing up the turnout of 300 to 400 people. Unlike Rob Mosbacher, Brown didn't need to bus in supporters or provide free food and a weekday lunchtime announcement to draw a decent audience to Sam Houston Park.
Perhaps inspired by the rocking sermon his Chicago-based minister son Patrick delivered at the Payne Chapel AME Church earlier Sunday, Brown's announcement speech at the park's Jack Yates House was easily the best of the infant campaign season. He spoke movingly about his poverty-stricken childhood and self-made career, displaying real emotion. "We lived in a barn," Brown said of his early days in a family of California farm workers. "I washed dishes to get through college." He gracefully left it to the audience to make the inevitable comparison between his early years and Mosbacher's gilded upbringing.
The meat of Brown's speech included proposals based on his police experience, such as linking the city's parks department to HISD for programs to keep youth off the streets. He also found a way to pay obeisance to Lanier without getting too smarmy about it, claiming that the outgoing mayor's popular Neighborhoods to Standards program was just a logical outcome of his neighborhood-oriented policing philosophy. Brown didn't mention that neighborhood-oriented policing, at least as rhetoric, quickly went out of style at HPD when Lanier appointed Sam Nuchia as chief. To hear Brown tell it, though, neighborhood-oriented policing is now the key component of national law enforcement strategy, and "it all started right here in Houston, Texas."
Now it's time for the sequel to Neighborhoods to Standards, Brown told his audience. Get ready for "neighborhood-oriented government," which we'll henceforth refer to as NOG. "I want to be able to say we started a new method of government," Brown had explained earlier in the day. But exactly what NOG might be remained unclear. It sounds vaguely like a throwback to Chicago ward politics, with a mayoral organizer on every block. But whatever NOG is, Brown sounded as if he really believed in it.
At the Payne Chapel in the Fifth Ward, pastor Michael Gibson summoned Brown and his wife to the front of the church to receive the congregation's blessing. He then implored the members to extend their right hands toward Brown while praying for his success, for a moment creating the surreal image of a crowd giving the candidate a silent "heil Lee" salute.
"When you let God begin your effort," Gibson intoned to the rapt congregation, "supernatural things happen."
Judging by the polished, energetic performance Brown put on at Sam Houston Park several hours later, the good reverend must have been right.
Bringing It All Back Home
There are two thing you can say with certainty about City Controller Lloyd Kelley: He's an impatient young man on the move, and he doesn't mind stepping on toes to get things done. Lately, he's managed to exhibit both characteristics -- on the political front and on the Woodland Heights turf he shares with some rather unappreciative neighbors.
The political flap began when the Austin-based newsletter Texas Weekly reported that Kelley will run for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission next year if Republican incumbent Barry Williamson decides not to seek re-election. The item caused a stir, particularly since Mayor Bob Lanier and other power players had recently attended a fundraiser for Kelley hosted by Port Commission chairman Ned Holmes and forked over contributions to help his re-election bid.
According to one irked political source, Kelley aide David Hagy flatly denied there was anything to the newsletter report. Unfortunately, Kelley consultant Allen Blakemore does not seem to be reading off the same script. Blakemore confirms that he and Kelley are discussing possible statewide races and that Kelley just might run for controller and railroad commissioner at the same time.
But wouldn't campaigning for two offices at once be an affront to voters? "It is a whole lot more honest than what we're used to getting here," argues Blakemore, alluding to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee's filing to run for the federal post on the day she was sworn in to a City Council term in 1994. "The point is that if he decides to do this, the voters are going to know about it."
On the home front, Kelley's already icy relations with next-door neighbor Wiley Smartt dropped a few degrees last month, when Kelley allegedly tried to pull some strings at City Hall to get a sewer tap connected at his new home in Woodland Heights. Smartt had testified against Kelley at a city Ethics Committee hearing probing how the controller first delayed a city order to tear down the house and then bought it for almost nothing. A Kelley aide received a hand slap from the committee, but the controller emerged unscathed.
Kelley recently moved into the newly renovated home, and gave selected members of the media a tour. (Somehow, the Press was overlooked when the invites went out.)
Smartt claims that Kelley tried to get a city crew early last month to tear up Smartt's back yard to make the sewer connection because construction on Kelley's lot had blocked access to a second tap. Because Smartt was out of town and had left several imposing German shepherds in his back yard, the crew could not get access.