Law? What Law?

City Council proposed; City Hall didn't dispose

You'd think that when the Houston City Council passes a law ordering bureaucrats to do something, it would happen. You'd be wrong.

A year ago council passed a law, proposed by Councilmember Carol Alvarado, telling the city to hike golf-course greens fees for out-of-towners. The law didn't specify the amount of the increase, it just ordered non-Houstonians to pay more than the $10 to $40 in fees residents pay at various courses. Staffers should determine the size of the surcharge, the law said.

And those staffers diligently set to work and…did nothing.

Councilmembers discovered the inaction as they wrestled recently with the upcoming budget. Mark Ellis angrily asked then-parks director Roksan Okan-Vick about it, and Okan-Vick "admitted that she'd taken it upon herself not to do it," Alvarado says. "She wanted to do a complete study of the city golf courses first."

Yeah, but the law that was passed did kind of specify that the fees had to be hiked, right? Does this mean if council hikes sewage fees, we can all feel free to study the matter for a year instead of paying the increase?

Okan-Vick was unavailable, but a city staffer who wants anonymity suggests she may be taking the heat for former mayor Lee Brown's apparent decision against the increase. That "Blame Brown" reasoning has become pretty much the fallback position for any bureaucratic crisis that sparks up nowadays.

Mayor Bill White has now assigned someone to inventory past council initiatives and find out how many have been ignored. Spokesman Frank Michel suspects there will be some, and the mayor now plans quarterly updates to council on such matters.

"One of the hopes is that we don't find little surprises of things that weren't followed up on," he says.

"Little surprises" -- just another bit of fun from the City Hall bureaucracy.

Holy Crap, Batman

Jennifer Scott mines gold from under the bridges of Houston. Not quite "gold," actually -- more like bat shit. In fact, exactly like bat shit. For three years Scott, 40, has headed out every two months with shovel and pail to gather bat guano, a desirable fertilizer, which she sells at a nursery for $7 a pound. Taking time out from battling unpleasant smells, stifling heat and the risk of contracting the lung disease histoplasmosis from mites on the bats, Scott shovels the shit with Hair Balls:

Q. How did you discover the bat guano?

A. Well, actually, a friend of mine noticed it just from the odor. And that's how he found out about it, just by looking for it after he smelled it.

Q. When do you harvest the guano?

A. I only do it at night…There have been some times I have been down there right about sunset. Because it's kind of not fun [in the heat]. Well, it's not bad at night, but it is better when you can see.

Q.That makes sense.

A. Well, there's sometimes dead bats. You want to see them and not sweep them up into your bucket, 'cause you don't want to be throwing it into somebody's yard and you throw out a dead bat…Because there's cigarette butts and rocks and whatever somebody throws off the bridge ends up there, or whatever floods down the bayou.

Q. What's it like harvesting under the bridge?

A. When I'm harvesting, I feel stuff fall on me -- I know it's bat poop, you know. I'm going to start wearing one of those big jumpsuit kind of things, I think, you know, like the toxic-waste guys wear. I mean, usually I'm in shorts and a T-shirt, and I just go home and shower immediately. But the more I'm thinking, I probably won't [wear the jumpsuit], though. Because it's hot, and it's Houston, and you boil.

Q.It seems like the city should pay you for cleaning this stuff up.

A. That's right. If it was allowed to collect, it could actually harbor that histoplasmosis. Plus it smells, there's just no doubt about it.

Offer Not Valid in Montrose

The Houston Film Commission recently posted a link on its Web page to a TBS network blurb seeking contestants from Houston for a new series called All-American Man, which apparently is "The Ultimate Guy Challenge."

"A diverse group of men" will live together for about three weeks and undergo challenges testing their physical skill and daring, the network item said. The Houston tryout was scheduled for June 19.

Apparently the group won't be too diverse -- the application notes that participants must be 21, residents of the United States, and "have either a girlfriend or a wife."

Wouldn't want any romances to spring up among the isolated all-American males, or anything.

No word on whether applicants' porn stashes will be examined to ensure they aren't, you know, that way.

See No Evil

Former KSEV-AM radio host Jon Matthews was one of the city's top Clinton-bashers, and in Houston that's saying something. Frothing rants at the despicable, craven, disgusting Satan-spawn that was the 42nd president were a nonstop topic for Matthews. So it was a little surprising when he pleaded guilty June 21 to indecency with a child. (Matthews, not Clinton.)

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