A Last Bite of '97

Despite being hit with a contempt citation for ignoring a divorce court's order to turn over assets to his ex-wife, "One-Man Mob" John Shike [by Steve McVicker, May 8] remains free pending resolution of his appeal. Shike's ex-wife, Saba Hameed, has obtained her real estate license and continues to work at a department store. On Sunday afternoons, television viewers with nothing better to watch can catch Shike's so-called "public affairs" program, World Connection, on the Access Houston cable channel. As far as we know, Shike does not have a new best friend named Lee P. Brown.

Nineteen ninety-seven started on a high note for state District Judge William Bell [The Insider, "Courthouse Crack-up," by Tim Fleck, May 29], who attended a raucous dinner party where he engaged in a conversation with lawyer Holly Williamson. Bell's professional life went downhill from there. It was during that conversation, Williamson later testified, that Bell improperly discussed matters in the Kennedy Heights toxic-tort litigation then pending in his court. For that and other indiscretions, Bell was later forced to resign his bench by the Texas Judicial Conduct Commission. He's since returned to private practice as a mediator and defense attorney. His first prominent case: representing that elderly Republican precinct judge caught altering ballots in the December 6 mayoral runoff to help loser Rob Mosbacher.

State District Judge Jim Barr also lost his bench after female prosecutors accused him of making lewd jokes in court [The Insider, "Have You Heard the One About Judge Jim Barr?", March 20]. There was also the little matter of his controversial jailing of a Harris County constable. Unlike Bell, Barr is still fighting to hold on to his job, but a panel of judges ordered him suspended from court duty with pay until a final tribunal approves or rejects the judicial commission's decision to remove him from office.

The Cotswold project, a master plan for 60 blocks on the north end of downtown that was to include a waterway down Congress Avenue and 3,000 new parking spaces, seems to have fallen off the map. As revealed in Bob Burtman's May 1 cover story, "Cotswold Unspun," Cotswold's proposed reconfiguring of city streets was in direct conflict with Metro's long-range plans for downtown. But after intense negotiations, that conflict was said to be resolved, and Cotswold's patrons seemed ready to go before City Council for preliminary approval.

Nothing has happened since, but Cotswold frontman Leo Linbeck III reports that the project is simply lying dormant pending a thumbs-up from everybody's new best friend, Lee P. Brown. Though plans for the waterway have been scaled back, the Cotswold concept, which calls for a private security force to protect shoppers from whatever non-yuppie riffraff may wander into the downtown theme park, remains essentially unchanged.

"We kind of ran out of time with [the Lanier] administration," explains Linbeck. "There were so many things in the queue ahead of us, I think we just got pushed down the agenda and fell off." Though there are still some details to resolve, Linbeck adds, "We're pretty confident that the next administration is going to approve the project."

In February, a few months after three-year-old Ashley Yount received a cochlear implant ["Ashley Yount Can't Hear You," by Lisa Gray, January 16], her mother, Julie, peeled an orange and handed Ashley a segment. Ashley ate it, then gestured toward the orange. "Ore," she said. "Mmmmore," coaxed Julie, excited. "More," responded Ashley. It was Ashley's first word; she had crossed over from the world of the deaf to the world of speech. No one had expected Ashley to speak so soon, barely two months after her implant had been turned on; a year is more typical. Julie credits Ashley's experience with sign language for her quick progression with speech: Because Ashley already understood one kind of language, her mother feels, she was more easily able to pick up another.

This summer, the Younts moved from Houston to rural Weston, Missouri. Ashley now attends a pre-school with hearing children, and Julie reports that she's progressing marvelously.

Joe Lychner, whose wife and daughters were among the 230 people killed in the July 1996 explosion of Pan Am Flight 800 ["After the Crash," by Lisa Gray, October 23], spent eight hours on the night of the crash trying to call the 800 "informational" number he saw flashed on CNN -- only to be greeted by a busy signal or instructions to leave his name and number so that authorities could reach him. Roughly a year later, he served on a national task force to change the way airline disasters are handled; the group released its recommendations in December. If Congress accepts the proposals, airline passengers will soon be asked to leave the name and phone number of someone to contact in case of an emergency. Then, should the worst occur, families of crash victims at least won't have to endure hours of uncertainty.

City Councilman John Kelley's 35-year-old son, Shaun [The Insider, "Father of the Year," by Tim Fleck, June 26], nearly got his probation revoked on a cocaine-possession sentence, and later was threatened with prison after flunking a drug test while in the Harris County Jail. Shaun Kelley was then sent for a nine-month stay in a drug treatment program operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, but as of this writing he's back in the county jail awaiting a contempt hearing early next month in his ex-wife's divorce suit.

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