Economic Development, the Houston Chronicle, Frivolous Lawsuits and Bad Travel Agents

The Greater Houston Partnership, our area's version of the Chamber of Commerce, commissioned yet another study about how this area should encourage growth. Cities like Atlanta and Charlotte have done the same thing, and come out with plans to attract young brainy types by hyping just how hip their cities are.

The report to the GHP by urban expert Joel Kotkin of Los Angeles, on the other hand, said Houston should forget about trying to be trendy.

Hair Balls: What, we're not hip?

Joel Kotkin: I've always said if you need a campaign to prove you're hip and cool, you're not. Personally, I think Houston's very cool...You know, I went out with [friends] to a sushi bar on Westheimer. It was 8:30 at night, it was winter and I swear I thought I was on the West Side of Manhattan.

HB: Whaaaat?

JK: There must be a yuppie influx going on on the west side of Houston that's pretty interesting that I didn't see five years ago...When you're talking about the hip and cool stuff, there's an element of Houston that can't take yes for an answer.

HB: How so?

JK: I just think there are people in Houston who just can't see how anyone can say something nice about Houston. [They say] "Why would you want to be here, why would you live here?"...[Houston receives disdain from] both the Eastern establishment and the local elites. You know, "If we can only be Boston by the Bayou." It's not gonna happen. You are what you are, you build yourself on your own DNA.

HB: Were you ever here in August?

JK: Yes. My wife says I'm not quite human. I go to North Dakota in January and it doesn't bother me. Part of it is living in L.A.; I go, "It's an experience." But then I don't have to live in it all the time. Look, weather and topography are not Houston's strong points, and that's why it's not a tourist city.

Kotkin had plenty more to say about Houston, his report, whether the GHP really understands what he's saying and where he sees Houston in 20 years. Click here for a fuller transcript.

Stay Positive

Kotkin, by the way, says his report strongly urged Houston to address educational and greenspace issues; he says he was baffled by a Houston Chronicle story that implied he didn't do so.

We don't know about that, but we do know that we just loved that Chron story. "Just be yourself, Houston" was the opening sentence of the tale. Fair enough, but then the story went on to be a series of Houston's Great!! advertisements:

1. "From the lofty perspective of his mid-Manhattan office tower, [Houston newcomer Dave] Brown looked out and saw not the hip and happening center of the universe but a personal and financial dead end."

2. "A local recruiter said Houston doesn't deserve its reputation as a hard sell with a bad climate, dull geography, overwhelmed freeways and a vague identity."

3. And there was the couple from bucolic New England moving to "a master-planned community in Fort Bend County...The surroundings may not be quite as pretty as the rolling woodlands around their current home near Stamford, Conn., but the tradeoff seems small in the big picture."

4. Any quotes from residents hating their neighborhood of soulless, endless tract homes surrounded by strip malls must have come in after deadline and couldn't be included.

Gee. Chronicle publisher Jack Sweeney, who is also the chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership's Investor Development Committee, you have got some synergy going on.

Who You Gonna Call?

Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Thomas was working an extra job as a security guard for a northeast-side apartment complex in 2002 when he got a call from a fellow moonlighting deputy asking for help patrolling his apartment complex.

During the ensuing patrol, someone tried to steal a car and shots were fired when the driver was about to run over Thomas. Unfortunately, one of those shots hit Thomas in the leg.

What to do? Sue the apartment managers, of course, because that's where the big bucks are. But what to sue about? If you're Thomas, you allege the managing company was incompetent...because it hired a Harris County Sheriff's deputy as a guard.

Ouch.

A district-court judge tossed out the suit, a decision upheld by the 1st Court of Appeals a few weeks ago.

Neither Thomas nor his lawyer would talk to us about the case. Which is a shame, because we were definitely interested in hearing from a Harris County Sheriff's deputy just how incompetent Harris County Sheriff's deputies are.

Tales from the BBB

There are a million sad stories in the files of the Houston chapter of the Better Business Bureau. Well, maybe not a million, but there are quite a few. And here is one of them: Christopher Ryan Thomas of Sugar Land, who apparently has an odd idea of how to arrange a class trip to Jamaica.

— As told to Richard Connelly

 
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