Mayoral Field of Dreams

If you pay them, they will come

If partisanship is on its way out at City Hall, somebody forgot to tell the councilmembers considering a resolution opposing unilateral preemptive U.S. military action against Iraq. Councilmember Gordon Quan drafted the text, which states that a unilateral American attack risks international destabilization and will cost billions of dollars at a time when states and cities are in financial crisis. The resolution calls on the United States to allow United Nations inspectors to finish their work.

"I just feel like at some point you've got to take a stand," says Quan, "and that's a pretty mild stand just to say, 'Listen to the UN and let's follow world opinion on this.' "

Council so far has been split mostly along party lines, with five Dems favoring the resolution and all seven Republicans opposed. Late last week Mayor Lee Brown decided not to add the resolution to the agenda. City lobbyists in Austin warned that passage of the resolution might anger conservative lawmakers and endanger city-backed legislation. They point out that Austin City Council's approval of such a resolution drew criticism from Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst.

Shuck those bucks: A competitive mayoral race promises a rich harvest for consultants.
Scott Gilbert
Shuck those bucks: A competitive mayoral race promises a rich harvest for consultants.

According to Quan, Democrat and District H Councilman Gabe Vasquez indicated he would not vote against the war because a relative is in the U.S. military. At-large Democrat Carroll Robinson is undecided, after offering an alternate resolution described by one colleague as "all feel-good and no substance."

At-large Councilwoman Annise Parker reluctantly backs the resolution, reasoning that "the president has not made a case for a preemptive strike, and I believe we need to allow United Nations inspectors to do their job." If the resolution gets rejected, the Democrat figures its supporters will be politically damaged. Since she's running for city controller, the payback could come sooner rather than later.

"I am absolutely convinced," explains the councilwoman, "that it will be used against anybody who votes for it by conservatives in Houston elections and in Austin."

State Guns for Golden Eagle

State regulators have ordered a former City Council candidate to surrender the operator's license of a controversial youth center for drug and alcohol treatment.

Officials of the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse notified Golden Eagle Leadership Academy CEO Richard Johnson of a range of alleged state violations at the facility at 14230 Walters Road. The most serious accusation is that Golden Eagle failed to notify the state of the alleged abuse of adolescents and that it did not take immediate action to prevent or stop the abuse. Investigators also cited instances where youths were physically restrained without justification or approval by qualified counselors.

Johnson has had other scrapes with regulators over the center. After a commission investigator cited Golden Eagle for violations two years ago, the six-foot-five Johnson and supporters stormed the agency's Houston office and confronted the frightened investigator, who called Houston police for protection. Johnson, with the help of a local NAACP leader, took his complaints to Austin. The investigator was fired and Golden Eagle continued its operations.

In 1997, the Houston Press reported allegations by Hispanic and Anglo parents that their sons were physically assaulted at the academy by a group of black teens. The group, called the MFOI, was organized by former Nation of Islam minister Quanell X. In subsequent years, the Press was told by sources that Golden Eagle used its vans and staff in political efforts of Johnson's. Those reports came when he was an aide to then-councilman Michael Yarbrough, as well as in several unsuccessful council candidacies of his own.

Johnson can surrender his license or contest the revocation at a state hearing. He did not return an Insider call for comment.

Commission general counsel Thomas Best has already sought representation from the Texas attorney general for an anticipated legal fight with Johnson, stating that the continuing actions of the center's staff could "pose an immediate threat to the health and safety of its adolescent clients."

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