Conflict of Interest

A gay Republican for City Council?

The race to replace Shelley Sekula-Gibbs on the City Council -- as if anybody could -- has its first candidate.

His bio? Four years in the Air Force as an intelligence analyst and "Catholic Programs Coordinator"; stints in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, the George H.W. Bush Library in College Station and the Congressional office of John Culberson.

He also touts his work lobbying to modify the military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule. The twist: He doesn't hate it for being too lenient, like the hawkish conservative his résumé suggests he is. Instead, Noel Freeman wants it abolished so that gays like him can serve openly in the military.

Freeman is the new head of the local Log Cabin Republicans, and he is ready to nail down the votes of: 1) all Houston gays who love the GOP agenda, and 2) the west-side Christian right-wingers who think one gay person on City Council isn't enough.

It seems a tough hill to climb, but Freeman, who works in the city's public works department, says he's ready.

"No one ever said the race would be easy, but I've been through a lot in my life and it's important for me to do what I can," he says.

The race for the at-large seat is expected to turn into a mad scramble that might include any number of candidates, meaning someone could sneak into a runoff with a low percentage in the May vote.

And if anyone seems destined for a low percentage, it's the earnest Freeman. Stranger things have happened in Houston, though.

Not a whole lot stranger, maybe. But then again, we did elect Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

It's All Relative

As 2006 draws to a close, it's probably time to put the Enron saga behind us. Everyone who had a part in the tale, and is still around, has been sentenced. And who got hit with the longest prison term?

The guy who set a small fire at Andrew Fastow's still-under-construction mansion.

Robert Blakely McLendon, whom you've probably forgotten, set a small fire in 2002 that caused what police described as "minimal damage" to the shell of the 11,000-square-foot River Oaks mansion Fastow was building.

Blakely received a 35-year sentence. Fastow, on the other hand, received six years for his part in defrauding Enron investors. Bob Causey also got six years. Jeff Skilling was sentenced to 24 years, and we'll never know what Ken Lay would have received.

"I thought he got way too much time," says McLendon's lawyer, Rick DeToto.

In the punishment phase of the trial, prosecutors told the jury about incidents where McLendon had been suspected -- but not charged with -- setting two other fires, including one at the civil courthouse.

But DeToto says the heavy sentence is more a function of how the criminal-justice system works.

"There's a huge difference between state and federal court. Generally defendants in state court are exposed to a lot more time than defendants in federal court, and it's even more pronounced in white-collar crime cases," he says. "Fastow's an example. He's one of the leaders in that whole debacle and he got very little time...It's kind of scary, especially with white-collar crimes: you can steal a whole lot of money and get charged in federal court and not serve a whole lot of time."

Just don't set any fires to empty mansions. Then the hammer of justice will really come down.

So Sue Me

Main Street Theater is getting ready to do the first local professional production of the spoofy musical Urinetown, and director Ilich Guardiola has more than the usual worries.

In a move that's raised attention nationwide, the creators of Urinetown have had their lawyers send threatening letters to theater companies in Chicago and Akron, Ohio, charging them with too closely copying the original Broadway production.

Theater companies pay for the right to use a script and music of a particular production; the Urinetown creators say the two companies have copied the direction, choreography and set design without paying.

"I think it's a little bit crazy what they're doing," Guardiola says of the musical's creators. "It seems a little bit silly to me."

Copying a production is easy -- "You can get a bootleg [video] copy of anything you want that's been on Broadway nowadays," he says -- but he won't be doing that.

And not just because he feels the ominous pressure of lurking lawyers.

"I certainly don't want to get so stupid that I set my Urinetown in the cockpit of the Starship Enterprise in order for it to fly with the lawyers," he says.

The show opens January 4. If you're in the audience, be on the lookout for guys in expensive suits making extensive notes.

AlmostMySpace

Bonzi Wells was the big off-season acquisition of the Houston Rockets. The 6–5 shooting guard came with some baggage — he was part of the legendarily undisciplined Portland “JailBlazers” of a few years ago, where he publicly cursed his coach, gave the finger to a fan, hit a ref and was cited by the police for refusing to leave the scene at a nightclub brawl. So how’s it working out here in Houston? Tough to tell: Bonzi has missed all but two games. He underwent a series of root canals, and the team insists he’s just “getting into basketball shape,” but he’s had almost a month to do so. Bonzi, baby, what up? To get a load of Rockets’ guard Bonzi Wells’ AlmostMySpace page, Click Here.

 
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