Par for the Course

Forget the money crunch, let's play golf

You're a community college with a rebelling faculty, a departing chancellor, a possible fiscal crisis. What do you do? Open a golf course!

That's the thinking at Houston Community College, apparently.

Rumors are swirling at the school that layoffs or program cutbacks are likely, and that some employees may be getting IOUs instead of checks. (An HCC spokeswoman denies the IOU rumor.)

So some faculty members aren't exactly overjoyed that the system's Northeast College is proudly announcing the opening of its new golf course.

"A golf pro will be hired (even though we have a hiring freeze)," wrote one. "No answer on whether HCC employees will get a break on greens fees...Also no mention on whether there will be a 19th hole. So let's see, they are cutting our budgets to the bone, making us cut back on part-time staff and adjuncts, we're some umpty millions of dollars in the hole with the [Capital Improvement Plan], and [the northeast campus] is getting a golf course. Wonder if the board will find it convenient to meet out at Northeast on a regular basis from now on?"

Hmmm. Those hopes that a golf course would make the faculty happy? File them under "dashed."

Things aren't actually as bad as painted. HCC spokeswoman Carole Keeney Harrington says no decision has been made yet on whether a golf pro will be hired. And the course won't exactly be a sumptuous 18-hole replica of Augusta National. Instead, it's just three par-three holes.

But the thinking behind it is...odd, to say the least.

According to the official announcement of the July 5 opening, HCC Northeast, which is "committed to providing quality academic and workforce education, is embarking on a new and unique opportunity for residents of northeast Houston to learn or improve skills in the age-old sport of golf."

They are, it seems, also committed to providing the opportunity for residents to ponder what the hell "academic and workforce education" has to do with golf.

Private instruction is available for $50 an hour. So hey, all you folks who need "workforce education," get yourself out to the links!

After all, it's your tax dollars at work.

Never Mind

Back in the spring, Houston Press reporter Josh Harkinson was preparing a story on the newly attractive potential of nuclear power (see "Bring It On," March 9). As part of his effort, he wanted to take a tour of the South Texas nuclear plant in Matagorda County.

Plant spokesman Ed Conway firmly rejected the request; Harkinson remembers him saying he'd get a tour "when hell freezes over." The official reason given was that the plant wasn't relevant to a story on increasing use of nuclear power because its owners had absolutely no plans to expand the facility.

So it came as somewhat of a surprise when the plant's owners announced June 21 that they were planning to double the size of the plant.

Did hell freeze over? "I don't think I was that negative," Conway says of his initial conversation with Harkinson. "But funny that you use that phrase, because I have a photo up on my bulletin board, it's from a little town, I think it's in Michigan. The name of the town is Hell and the photo was taken in winter after an ice storm...I guess that's very appropriate."

Conway says he "had heard no rumblings" about expansion when he turned down the tour. "I just found out about it myself a little over a week ago."

So will the publicity-adverse plant be giving tours to reporters now? Maybe. "I certainly hope so, yes," he says. "I've already started to make noises in that direction. We need to do that."

Bull Shirt

Residents of the west side of town, you may be sitting on a gold mine.

Did your kid play sports at what's now the Katy Family YMCA? You should dig through their closets, because you may be the proud owner of a moneymaker.

The Katy facility used to be known as the Ken Lay YMCA, until the convicted felon graciously asked for his name to be taken down. The youth teams that played at the Y before the name change were issued shirts with "Ken Lay YMCA" emblazoned on a logo with the slogan "Caring, Respect, Honesty, Faith, Responsibility."

On at least four of those five, Kenny Boy kinda messed up (he always did keep a deep and abiding faith in himself).

Carla Hannah of Sealy saw one of the shirts in a thrift shop, bought it for 50 cents and promptly put it up for bid on eBay. She got $10.50 for it, which in terms of a profit margin is as huge as all those projected broadband earnings Enron was touting.

Trazanna Moreno, spokeswoman for the Houston YMCA, says she believes hundreds of the shirts were made, although no specific count is available.

Not that the Y plans to use any leftovers for fund-raising.

"We in no way," she says, "want to make light of his conviction or the pain that people say his actions caused them."

On the other hand, a 2100 percent profit margin...

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