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Fight the Power

Could there be a fun, pro-music political action committee in Houston? Why the hell not?

In Sherman's analysis, Mayor Bob Lanier's brokering of a peace treaty/pay raise for the police should have spelled the end for the neighborhood associations. Key words: "should have": "Everybody with a life dropped out of the civic club," he opines. "What remained was a small, judgmental, power-mad lunatic fringe which was perceived as 'the voice of the neighborhood.' Anyone seeking office or re-election pandered to this minority -- hence the noise ordinance, the ban on drinking in parks and the push for zoning."

These people -- whom Sherman in his best Bill Safire-esque prose calls "nitwitted NIMBY neighborhood Nazis" -- are running amok now. "Make no mistake -- much of what happens in Houston is to appease a small, active group of serious control freaks. They cloak it in terms of quality of life and property values, but the real motivation is that making other people do things they don't want to makes them pop a woody. Also, a surprising number of nNnN 'community activists' are recovering alcoholics who enjoy denying others the pleasures they can't indulge in."

And, Sherman says, voter apathy takes care of the rest. As Sherman puts it, "Especially in local elections it is very hard to get people to the polls, and the extremists wind up with power and input way out of proportion to their numbers and the actual collective will of the neighborhood." (Back in his Public News days, Sherman studied the work habits of retired councilman Frank Mancuso up close and personal for a week or so. Eventually Sherman said, "Frank, it looks to me like you guys really just work for about 25 people in your district who you don't want stumping for your opponent, and as long as you keep them happy you get re-elected." According to Sherman, Mancuso took a puff off of his cigar and said, "Actually, it's more like ten or 12.")

So Sherman says the time has come for knock-down-drag-out civic combat. He doesn't want to fight City Hall -- he wants to join it, to pack it with candidates friendlier to the old Montrosian/Washington Avenue way of life -- specifically, that aspect of it that loved loud music and long nights in the bars. The Puritan Roundheads have had their day here; now it's time for the fun-loving Cavaliers to ride again.

Sherman says the club owners need to band together -- to that end, he proposes a political action committee to be helmed by Pam Robinson of Walter's and Lelia Rodgers of Rudyard's. Between them, and with the cooperation of the city's bands and other venues like the Proletariat, Fitzgerald's, the Continental Club and Super Happy Fun Land, this group could raise mad cash through a series of benefit concerts. That money could be steered to the PAC, which could then fund one or more pro-music candidates for city council.

"With enough money, a ham sandwich could get elected to Council in Houston and probably serve the full three terms," Sherman notes. "And if the club owners and bands would unite in raising a record amount of money for electable, well-rounded pro-music candidates, it would bitch-slap the pols who are whores for the nNnNs and open the eyes of fence-sitters."

Sherman has a couple of candidates in mind. So, as it happens, do I, one of whom is Allen Hill, the tuxedo-wearing, long-distance running leader of the Allen Oldies Band. I called him at his day job -- he does marketing and public relations for the Orange Show -- and he definitely sounded intrigued by the prospect. "I would be the first council member who wouldn't need a microphone," he says. "And I'm already one of the loudest people in town. I could just get louder."

You can almost hear him warming to the idea over the phone. "I think something like this is necessary, whether it's me on the council or not," he says. "It needs to happen. This top-down BS needs to stop. It's really important. Does Houston want to have an identity or does it want to be anonymous and bland?"

Will this city be a fun dwelling place for people, or an enormous glorified office park fit only for cars? It's up to you.

john.lomax@houstonpress.com

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