The Insider

Sanchez to the Rescue
With Mayor Lee Brown on the verge of suffering his first defeat in a City Council vote last week, a strange political bedfellow provided some temporary relief.

Much to the glee of Brown Council opponents Rob Todd and Joe Roach, the mayor's hastily planned Summer Youth Program and its controversial mix of area churches and city dollars seemed headed down the tubes. Michael Yarbrough had gone out of town and taken his knee-jerk pro-administration vote with him, and usually trusty Carroll Robinson indicated he was against the mayor's proposal.

May Walker, Brown's assistant for youth affairs, had tried to shape a program in 30 days to provide $10,000 outlays to ten area churches so they could utilize their facilities for youth activities (in parts of town where no other such facilities were available). The choice of some congregations and the issue of separation of church and state immediately generated Council opposition. The first time the matter went to Council, it was delayed a week, and it looked like a goner when it came up again last Wednesday.

In stepped Councilman Orlando Sanchez, generally counted in the administration opposition, with a saving tag that delayed the vote on the ordinance for another week and gave the mayor a chance to win over wavering councilmembers or dispose of the program in some face-saving fashion. Sanchez had been out of town the previous week on a Norwegian sister-city junket representing Houston, and under Council rules was the only member who had the power to delay the vote.

His action brought pleas from Todd to reconsider, along with the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Sanchez had perhaps had too much vodka to drink on his Scandinavian sojourn and wasn't thinking straight. The councilman refused to release the tag, and the summer youth program limped on for another week.

Sanchez offered an explanation for providing an unlikely helping hand for Brown. When he got back from Norway, he says, Walker called him and asked for his support. Although the councilman indicated he was likely to vote against the program, she asked him to read a packet of information she provided before making a final decision.

Sanchez says he felt compelled out of fairness to the administration to at least give Walker the courtesy of reading the information she provided before casting the killing vote. He told Walker he would tag the item, and repeated the pledge to mayor pro tem Jew Don Boney after the meeting began.

When Sanchez did tag it, he recalls, "There was all this commotion going on because I didn't know everybody wasready to kill the damn thing."

Sanchez finds laughable the suggestion that he was doing some favor to the mayor for a payback. "I've never done administration favors on items," he insists. "But I can't just say, on a whim, because I'm conservative, screw this program, it's for kids. I can't make a determination until I've read the material."

Fellow Republican Roach says he was surprised Sanchez would help Brown, and he says that Sanchez has repeatedly told people he's planning to run for mayor in the future against the incumbent.

Sanchez claims to be mystified by that comment. "I haven't told anybody that," he claims, demonstrating that the opposition to the administration, at least in this case, is not working off the same page. "I think," says Sanchez, "that Joe has a vivid imagination."

Unlike Roach, who is in his final term as a councilman, Sanchez is in his second term and can run again for his Council seat. The financial aspect of challenging an incumbent is also a prohibitive factor, allows Sanchez. "It takes a couple of million bucks in the bank to run for mayor," he says, "and I've only got about $20,000 in my campaign account."

Memo to Mayor Brown: Here's a councilman who might merit some additional care and feeding.

Let Ned Pick Up the Tab
Of all the locations to hold a public meeting of the Houston Port Commission, the San Chicago Camp on the King Ranch south of Corpus Christi doesn't spring to mind as the most likely candidate.

But the camp happens to be commission chairman Ned Holmes's leased rancho getaway, so when the commission members and port staff headed for a three-day retreat last February, Holmes volunteered to host the group at his own expense, including paying airfare for staff members.

The Chronicle sent a reporter, Jenalia Moreno, to cover the "public meeting," though Holmes opined that she made the trip largely because she had family in South Texas. The retreats don't really create much news and rarely draw observers, according to the chairman, but he was happy a reporter was present to ascertain that nothing sinister was going on.

Port Commissioner Chase Untermeyer, who did not go on the outing, sees nothing wrong with letting Ned pay for the retreat. "That's commendable," says Untermeyer, "because I can see the Port Commission might have come into some criticism if, at public expense, it had met in a fancy place far away from the usual meeting place. That's the advantage of having a generous and blessed chairman."

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