Cover Story: Michael Berry, Former City Hall Boy Wonder
Oh, NOW he stands with Arizona.
Nine years ago, embattled right-wing radio host Michael Berry was a 32-year-old mayoral candidate. Tim Fleck wrote a feature on the fresh-faced city councilman and quixotic candidate (polling below 10 percent, Berry pulled out of the race less than a month after the story hit the street) and his Indian-born, high-achieving wife Nandita "Nandy" Venkateswaran in these pages, and some of it makes for odd reading today.
First, for someone who has spent plenty of time bashing illegal immigrants on his radio show, Berry appears to have had no qualms accepting their money and building a business on their backs.
After he quit less than a year into his late 1990s legal career, Berry went into real estate. Sources told Fleck that Berry loved to flip run-down Montrose apartment complexes wherein many if not most of the occupants were undocumented immigrants.
"Michael had these people over a barrel," the source told the Press. "He was basically a slumlord and charged them to live in squalid conditions and they couldn't complain about it."
Battle of the Piney Woods: SFA vs. SHSU
TicketsSat., Oct. 1, 3:00pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 11:00am
Rice University Owls Football vs. UTSA Roadrunners Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 6:00pm
Rice University Owls Football vs. Prairie View A&M University Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 22, 2:30pm
Berry denied that his buildings were squalid, while admitting that they were certainly "not River Oaks properties." He admitted that while he did not check the immigration status of his tenants, he felt "certain the residents were not illegal aliens."
He could just kinda tell, you see...
Berry was also portrayed as a less-than-discerning landlord.
Morgan Mull lived in a 30-unit deep-Montrose Brandt Street complex Berry purchased in early 2000.
He told Fleck that soon after Berry bought the place, the complex started filling up with suspected prostitutes and drug dealers. According to HPD records cited in the article, drug-dealing, prostitution and burglary calls to the complex soared in the final months of Berry's ownership. He sold the complex, and for the first few months of the new owner's ownership, cops were coming out pretty much every day. Calls averaged 28 per month, according to the story, but after many months with the new owner, had declined to less than one call per month during the first six months of 2003.
Mull accused Berry of accepting criminals in order to fill the complex to full occupancy, thus making it more attractive to potential buyers.
The situation got so bad the neighbors formed an ad hoc committee to clean the place up. When they confronted Berry, he blamed the apartment manager. The manager said the opposite, that Berry had produced all the renters. He also claimed that the residents he found were not committing the crimes -- he cited "walk-up traffic" and random street thugs.
And there's a whole lot more in the feature, including Berry throwing his wife under the bus, rumors of a mysterious trip to Cuba under an assumed name while his wife was on holiday in Paris, Quanel X's revocation of Berry's ghetto pass, a snippet of country-rocker John Evans's Berry-for-Mayor election jingle, the tell-tale sign that gives away Michael Berry's lies, Berry's failed attempt to emulate some of LBJ's less-savory interpersonal styles, and mayoral Sylvester Turner's rumored threat to "destroy" Berry.
Read it here....
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.