Katrina evacuees have for the most part moved on from the Dome and the convention center, but when they first got here officials estimated they might be living on cots in the facilities for months. There was also talk of federal aid to subsidize some residents staying at reduced rates in local hotels.
That at first seemed fine to the people who run the hotels and other convention-related stuff in Houston. After all, it's not like they had a whole lot of other stuff going on. (Who could forget Harris County Judge Robert Eckels nobly declaring the county had "cleared the Astrodome's schedule through December"? That job must've taken all of two minutes.)
But as talk grew of lengthy stays for evacuees, officials began to get nervous. They had one thing on their minds: quilts.
The International Quilt Festival was coming to town the first week of November. And you don't fuck with the Quilt Festival.
Who knew? Not us. But almost 54,000 people attended last year's festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center, and a similar number is expected this year. It's the city's largest annual convention.
Quilters buy a lot of hotel rooms. And man, the money they throw down at The Men's Club and Rick's.
We're not sure about that last one, but local tourist-industry folks grew concerned at the thought of losing the quilt show.
They didn't want to appear Scrooge-like, but then again the show brings an estimated $20 million to Houston. And "thousands and thousands of people would have nonrefundable airfares," says one insider. Quietly, tourist officials started expressing their concerns. (Of course, Don Corleone never shouted his marching orders either.)
As it happens, ensuing events made their fears easier to address, and Mayor Bill White officially confirmed that the Quilt Festival would not be canceled or moved to another city.
But if the original scenario had played out, with the convention center and hotels still tied up, we might have been treated to a display of the awesome power of the Quilters! Mess with those Nuclear Needles at your peril!
No Fashion Crime Here
Harris County sheriff's deputies are putting in all types of mad hours dealing with the Katrina fallout. You'll be glad to know they're doing it in style.
They are, in fact, the best-dressed law enforcement officers of any county in the nation. That's according to the 28th annual competition conducted by the National Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Dealers, so you know it's true.
The department's uniforms "still acknowledge and revere their rich heritage of Texas law enforcement," the NAUMD judges ruled. "One finds evidence of this in the western-styled hat, 'Roper' style boots and a traditional seven-point-star Sheriff's badge that bears the Texas state seal."
Apparently there is no Mr. Blackwell of the law enforcement community, so we don't know what sheriff's department "looks like the sleazy love child of Britney Spears and Elton John!!"
Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Lisa Martinez says there's been some razzing, but overall officers are pleased. "We made the news -- at least for once it was in a positive way, that we try to look professional," she says.
Criminals, she adds, have never really commented on the uniforms, apparently ignorant of how it acknowledges, much less how it reveres, Texas history.
The next time you're hassled by the Man, though, be sure to check out the threads.
A True Bush
City and school district officials stood behind a podium at Frederick Douglass Elementary September 9, talking about how the recently closed school would be reopened to handle Katrina victims.
One person in attendance who wasn't posing before the cameras: Neil Bush, brother of President George W. (In the Bush encyclopedia, Neil is listed under "Billion-Dollar S&L bailout," "Very Messy Divorce" and "Asian Sex Romps.") Neil was there because his mother is donating science curriculums to the school. Science curriculums produced by Neil's company, Ignite!, which has gotten a lucrative HISD contract.
Strangely, Neil didn't want to talk to the Houston Press, actually dashing down a hall to get away. We cornered him in the principal's office, however.
He didn't want to talk too much there, either, but we managed to ask him if he thought the federal response to the disaster had been too slow.
"I think my brother's doing the best he can do," Bush said. Not exactly an arguable point.
And then Neil showed his true Bush colors: "I have no clue what could have been done more."
It runs in the family, we guess.
Several people who've gone to the George R. Brown Convention Center to volunteer have come away grumbling about Baptists.
One, Kit Van Cleave, said she was met at the door by someone in a yellow "Operation Compassion" shirt and was told, "The Baptists have taken over this facility. We don't need you. You have to go through our religious orientation to volunteer." Another said it was like "a yellow-shirted gang took over" the center.
Walk-up volunteers are being turned away, says State Representative Rick Noriega, the "center commander" at the GRB, because having 500 to 600 "well-intentioned people" who weren't trained would likely cause more harm than good.
That -- and a state law requiring training for anyone distributing food -- means every volunteer must go through a course. A course is being taught at several churches, but mostly at Second Baptist, where 34,614 have taken it.
Church spokesman Gary Moore says there is no religious screening at the sessions.
And, contrary to what was allegedly said at the door to Van Cleave, there is no "religious orientation" involved.
Still, Van Cleave is upset about what she calls Baptist proselytizing. "I'm through volunteering," she says. "I was very dis-motivated to be very helpful when I heard the Baptists were in charge."
Hey, when you think of the political clout wielded by the rich westside Second Baptist, they've been in charge of things around here for a long time.
One Good Deed
One of the many schools helping relocated Katrina victims is Houston's Strake Jesuit, which plans to hold "second session" classes from 3:30 p.m. to 8:55 p.m. for newcomers, including many from the Jesuit school in New Orleans.
"In five years, I have never been so proud to be a member of this community as I have been this week," Father Daniel Lahart, president of Strake, told alumni in an e-mail.
"These students are our students," he said. "They are Strake Jesuit students. If their situation permits, we want them to, and hope that they will, participate in all aspects of our life here, including all extra-curricular activities."
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We bet you do, Father.
Jesuit High New Orleans is traditionally one of the state's football powerhouses, even if it's not as intimidating as it once was; Strake Jesuit, however, is coming off their first season as a 5A school, where they struggled with a 4-6 record, 2-5 in district.
A cynic would envision private schools frantically combing the Dome looking for displaced stud footballers. We -- being more gentle souls -- believe any new starters will simply be good karma for Strake. Or whatever the Jesuits call karma.
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