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"I think I reined in a lot of wasteful spending," says Berry in defense of his record. He says City Hall, before every decision, now has to consider, " 'Is this wasteful or inefficient?' because of Michael Berry."
Fellow conservative Bert Keller admires Berry's aggressiveness and self-confidence.
"I love that 'rudie type' attitude that Michael exudes and instills in others," says Keller, who adds that it also has drawbacks. "Maybe it will show that he wasn't ready and hadn't experienced the day-to-day, pay-your-dues in the process of learning how to get things done."
Parker concludes, "He needs seasoning. He needs to slow down and learn how to govern at the first level before he moves to the next level."
Ellis, who has endorsed Sanchez, offers Berry a backhanded compliment.
"Michael is a great candidate. He's got more energy than the Eveready bunny. But I've yet to see him be effective in trying to implement change here with the administration for the city."
It's dinnertime at the Berry household and the candidate has assembled a few friends to sample Nandy's Indian cuisine. Among them are Edna Ramos, a retired commercial pilot, architect John Cryer, attorney Geoff Berg and financial investor Jim Noteware.
"I believe he truly wants to fix the city, and it's not just words. He has the desire and energy to do it," says Ramos, who helped organize the Downtown and Midtown Residents Association. "I agree that he could change things and send Houston on a better path than the one we find ourselves on."
"Michael's really good about asking people to do things, and he can figure out what somebody's real contribution is," says Noteware. "Not only is that good in a campaign, I think it is wonderful in elective office." Noteware recalls that Berry was already discussing running for mayor even before he had been elected to council.
Berg has known the Berrys since Nandy was a law student and says he marvels at the candidate's knowledge of what's important to different types of people. "I've seen him at various events, and Michael could probably walk into any community and be an honorary Jew, an honorary Pakistani, an honorary Indian," Berg says. He notes that Berry's position on a nonmunicipal issue, the defense of the state of Israel, is actually his strongest attraction to the candidate.
Wine is served at the dinner, a relatively recent cultural innovation for the Berry household, since Nandy doesn't drink and Berry says he started sampling alcoholic beverages only five years ago.
The highlight comes when singer-songwriter John Evans drops in to audition a campaign song for the candidate. Evans, a lanky former Lamar Tech quarterback with Buddy Holly hair and glasses, is one more testimonial to Berry's unconventional political appeal.
The theme song isn't quite up to the visceral originality of other songs by Evans about love and loss. But as a contribution to the election jingle genre, it works.
"I'm gonna take a stand," croons Evans, "For this city and the work at hand / I'm gonna fight for what is right." Evans concludes, "I'm doing it all for me / I'm doing it all for you / I love this city and I hope you love it too."
It's a fitting campaign theme for Michael Berry. His critics can embrace the line about "doing it all for me," while all the starry-eyed followers can groove with the "fight for what is right."
It's just like Michael Berry: all things to all people.