By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
GHCVB printed 500,000 coupon books. One problem, though: They decided to do it on the cheap. Unlike almost all other such books -- which print the coupons so the back of each coupon is for the same offer as the front -- the bureau's booklet has two coupons on the front of each page and another two on the back of that page.
If you hand in the coupon for Space Center Houston, you're also handing over the one on the back for the Buffalo Soldiers Museum. Want to use the one for Six Flags? Say good-bye to the one for Da Camera Society. This isn't a coupon book, it's an unending Sophie's Choice.
Bureau spokeswoman Lindsey Brown says she realizes the setup is a little odd, but there were too many businesses clamoring to be involved, and they "had a limited number of pages available."
"It doesn't say you have to present the coupon," she notes. "If you go to a place and say, 'Oh, I don't want to give up the coupon because of what's on the other side,' you can just give them the promotion code on the coupon, and that will be good enough."
Well, except the bureau doesn't provide that helpful little tip anywhere in the booklet. "It is a little tricky," Brown admits.
That's all right. If there's one thing that doesn't need the help of coupons, it's convincing people to come to Houston in the summer.
Art Isn't Easy
Few things say "culture" more than government-sponsored art, and Houstonians should prepare themselves for seeing more and more of it.
A 2001 ordinance, just now beginning to be implemented, calls for 1.75 percent of the construction budget for some city buildings to be devoted to public art. One of the first projects under the ordinance is a new fire station in the Denver Harbor neighborhood.
"When we saw '$43,000 for art' [on the agenda], we just had some questions," says Giovanni Goribay, Garcia's chief of staff.
It turns out other bids had come in at $90,000, so the city got something of a bargain. (Disclosure: Eleven years ago Sellers painted the mural on the building the Houston Press now occupies.) Still, as the new ordinance is implemented, councilmembers are hoping for more information on neighborhood input and what happens to any of the 1.75 percent that isn't spent. (With a politico's appreciation of things artistic, Goribay notes of any excess cash, "The councilman would like it to stay in his district, at least.")
Once the kinks are worked out, expect more and more buildings to feature government-sponsored art. We can't wait for the murals of a grim-faced, flag-wielding Mayor Bill White leading a marching cadre of car-towing fanatics.