Tax Cuts for Some

Bugged about property taxes? Buy a skyscraper.

We're not saying there's anything to this astrology stuff, but after suffering through Cubs fans waving brooms at the last of a four-game sweep at Minute Maid Park June 17, we think a little Astros optimism is necessary.

In April, you might remember, Hair Balls analyzed the upcoming baseball season with astrologist Lilly Roddy. Checking the charts, she said the team would go through a bad slump in May and June, but recover. She also noted that unlike many of his elderly teammates, Roger Clemens "actually could have a really knockout year."

Don't get your hopes up too high, though -- she also said closer Octavio Dotel would collapse in September and October, and owner Drayton McLane would play a bigger role in the team after this season.

Texas A&M senior Alan Blevins will hold his nose and 
vote for Kerry.
Texas A&M senior Alan Blevins will hold his nose and vote for Kerry.

The Tow-Me State

Who knew that tow trucks would be the compelling story of Mayor Bill White's first six months? You've had a council revolt, you've had dire physical threats against the mayor (in the rhetorical sense, as it turns out) and now you have the state legislature getting involved.

White is trying to change the demolition derby free-for-all that happens these days whenever a dozen tow trucks scramble to make some cash off a Katy Freeway fender-bender. Careening through traffic, jumping over medians, ignoring every speed limit in their noble effort to help a stranded motorist, these guys make ambulance drivers seem like old ladies signaling the eternal left turn in the fast lane.

White's plan would limit tow trucks' jurisdiction to specified zones and charge them higher operating fees, and that has tow companies up in arms. They've got some city councilmembers on their side.

And now they're getting the state legislature.

Ever mindful that potential campaign donors are in need of services, local legislators have warned the city that rules concerning freeway towing should come out of Austin, not City Hall.

State Senator Mario Gallegos told City Council he's "all for mobility, but not [for] putting someone out of a job who has a job."

Why the sudden concern for a proposal that's been kicking around for months? "We've been in special session, and a few of us have been in exile in New Mexico," he said.

But the lure of new donors -- sorry, we mean the Opportunity to Help Constituents -- is so strong it's even reforging alliances bitterly split asunder by the earlier legislative holdout over redistricting, which ended when Senator John Whitmire betrayed his Democratic colleagues.

"I got an earful on this same subject from Senator Whitmire last night," Councilmember Michael Berry told council. Proving, we guess, that even if Democratic legislators can differ on whether to help a nefarious GOP power grab, they can still come together on the important stuff.

Puke & Ride

Metro, which as the world knows has had problems with attention-impaired people plowing into their trains, apparently believes part of the solution involves increasing the number of opportunities those trains have to deal with drunken drivers.

The agency proudly announced this month that on Fridays and Saturdays, it is extending operating hours for light rail. Previously, the last train left downtown at 12:47 a.m. on Friday and 1:03 a.m. Saturday; now it will leave at 2:15 -- giving revelers 15 minutes to stagger to the station after the bars close.

Seeing as the majority of light rail users don't live directly on the rail line, it's likely that after they get off the train they'll be getting into cars. Would Metro post police officers outside the Park & Ride lot at the end of the line? Installing a drunk-driver trap isn't the best way to boost stay-till-the-last-drop business.

Spokesman Ken Connaughton says that lot is always staffed by security anyway. "We hope [the new hours] will be an alternative to, rather than an encouragement of" driving drunk, he says.

The new hours also mean the train will be traveling down Main Street just as all the non-rail users are heading home from the bars. That seven-mile trip is bound to be interesting.

Unless Houston drivers have suddenly, miraculously improved their train-related driving skills.

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