Undercover Cop

New HPD Chief Hurtt is still plainclothes

Wall's story looked like a press release, not because of its pollyannaish jump headline -- "Rail Can Save On Parking" -- but because...a lot of it came directly from a Texans press release. (A press release that by August 10 was two weeks old, but again, that's beside the point.)

The story highlighted two long -- and glowingly positive -- quotes from Texans executive Jamey Rootes and someone called Barry Mendel, the executive director of something called the Houston Downtown Alliance. Quotes that were taken directly from the Texans July 26 press release.

Wall said the "story had to be written in a very tight time frame" (guys, don't wait five days to pick up your copy of the Press) and the release "provided the information I needed from the team and the downtown alliance."

He's wearing jail orange now.
He's wearing jail orange now.

He said the story he filed included a reference to the press release, but the reference apparently was taken out for space reasons.

"I did not make a stink about the reference not appearing [in] the Texans rail story," he said by e-mail, "because I have a lot more important things to be concerned about."

None of which include worrying about what rail critics think of the Chron, apparently.

Something Fishy This Way Comes

You'd never know it if your information comes exclusively from the big media outlets in Houston, but restaurateur Tilman Fertitta is not, as it turns out, a universally loved human being who brings nothing but smiles to the faces of all.

Evidence of this startling development surfaced recently in Denver, where Fertitta is embroiled in a controversy with the city over a tax break he thinks is due to him.

It involves Fertitta's Ocean Journey aquarium, which -- surprisingly enough for Houstonians -- deals with fish, not food or tigers or Ferris wheels. Fertitta purchased the aquarium in a bankruptcy auction last year and now is threatening to bulldoze the place unless the city lowers his tax assessment.

In Houston, the story would be "Brave Businessman Takes on City Hall." A columnist for the Denver Post had another take.

"Something stinks at Houston-based seafood chain Landry's, Inc. Is it the fish? Or that big carp running the joint, Tilman Fertitta?" wrote the Post's Al Lewis.

"Yo, seafood cowboy, I got a little message for you: It ain't gonna wash," he said of Fertitta's threat. "[A]fter Enron, it's scary to watch any Houston-based company in constant acquisition mode, knowing that it once had criminally convicted Arthur Andersen as its auditor. It's scarier when the auditor hired to replace Andersen leaves [recently] with the CFO."

Lewis concludes: "Do whatever you want with your fish tank, Tilman. You're the chump who bought it."

Geez. Doesn't this guy Lewis realize he's criticizing a man who is working day and night to give Houstonians the chance to pay big bucks to see some depressingly caged tigers while eating out downtown?

The jealousy is just appalling, man.

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