By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Although eight councilmembers voted for the rollback, only six were invited to break corn bread with the good doctor. Four of them showed to get their strokes and freebie food from Hotze: District F's Mark Ellis, the rollback ringleader; District A's Bruce Tatro; District C's Mark Goldberg; and District E's Rob Todd.
Excluded was Carroll Robinson, the lone African-American. He first voted for the rollback but then broke with the pack to provide the winning margin for the compromise that reduced the original tax cut by one cent. Also snubbed was At-large Councilman Chris Bell, a Democrat with mayoral ambitions who stuck with the Rollback Eight through thick and thin.
"I don't think I would have accepted the invitation, because I think it sends the wrong message," says Bell about his exclusion. He accuses Mayor Lee Brown of harping on partisanship, and Hotze's association with the rollback effort just feeds into that perception.
"I don't think either party should be crowing about its efforts in the tax cut battle," says Bell.
Sanchez attributed his absence from the Confederate House to lack of a baby-sitter rather than any political qualms.
"Let me tell you about this partisanship crap," snaps the councilman. "I'm tired of hearing about it. There's nobody who's more partisan than the mayor of the city of Houston and [Mayor Pro Tem] Jew Don Boney. If he can't take the political heat, he needs to get out of the kitchen."
Sanchez admits he was concerned that dining councilmembers would discuss city business. "I don't want to be involved in anything that might seem like a violation of the Open Meetings Act."
The fact that Hotze was paying for the dinner also raised a red flag with Sanchez, who is wary of supporters bearing gifts.
Councilman Keller says he was out jogging in Memorial Park and only heard of the Hotze invitation a few hours before dinnertime. "I already had an engagement," says Keller, "and it wasn't with an 18-year-old country-western singer, it was with a 38-year-old real estate broker."
Keller was referring to a chanteuse he recently dated from a local band called the County Line Renegades, after his estranged wife, Susan, took up with fellow Councilman Todd.
Keller accompanied Todd and Ellis early this year on a pheasant-hunting trip organized and paid for by Hotze. Keller says he'll have no problems socializing with the gang in the future.
"I like those guys; they're fun to hunt with or they're fun to whatever," says the councilman. "I definitely would never have any problem eating with them. But I didn't think we won a Superbowl. I wasn't going to go blow any horns.
"And really, all we're talking about is $15 million on a $2.2 billion budget. I mean, we blow ten votes like that a week."