Houston's mayor and City Council, in their never-ending effort to bend over backwards for developers, have come up with a positively surreal proposal: Instead of using city inspectors to make sure new homes and other construction is up to code, let builders hire their own inspectors.
If you think this sounds like letting criminal defendants hire their own judges, you're just not a forward-thinking Houston Proud type of person. You're probably one of those tree-hugging losers.
City Council had a public hearing on the proposal October 6. Representatives of the city's largest home builders were there, but none chose to speak, the wheels already having been well greased by now.
But Larry Parr, a builder, did get up and speak in favor of the proposal. And he made perfect sense, as long as you've never even figuratively hugged a tree.
Where to get private inspectors? He suggested a program to recruit "kids who have dropped out of high school We can have a farm team going."
And Larry, what's one of the best things about hiring your own inspector? "You'll be allowed to fire him," he said. (We couldn't see if the well-dressed big-home-builder lobbyists even bothered to cringe at that.)
Contractors such as plumbers and electricians say they are already being pressed to cut corners and argued against the plan -- using Parr's logic. "This is about builders owning the inspectors," said Stanley Briars, representing plumbers, air-conditioning techs and mechanical engineers. "If they're not passing everything, they're not going to get called back."
Hey, at least both sides can agree on that.
Mayor Bill White insisted the change is needed because builders have told them they have to wait too long for inspectors to show up. When one contractor said he'd never had a problem scheduling an inspector with 24 hours' notice, White asked him about the claims by the builders.
"Are they hallucinating, or are they corrupt?" he harrumphed.
Hmmm big home builders like Perry Homes nah, they'd never cut corners.
Look, who do you want inspecting new construction -- some drone of a City Hall bureaucrat, or some young go-getter eager to move up in a dynamic organization like, ummm, Perry Homes?
If you didn't say "Give me the go-getter!" then go hug a tree, willya?
KHOU's weather guru, Neil Frank, wants it known that he definitely was either misquoted or taken out of context by the Web site Spirit Daily, which -- as we wrote last week -- reported that he believed prayer could make hurricanes shift course.
Frank says he was out of town and unable to get back to us earlier, but that he didn't believe, as Spirit Daily claimed he did, that 700 Club's Pat Robertson prayed Hurricane Betsy away from Virginia and into New Orleans.
"I have trouble with one group of people praying it away from them and into someone else," he says. "As it approached New Orleans, I'm sure a lot of people were praying there, too."
Yeah, but New Orleans is a city of liquor-guzzling, titty-baring sinners. You think God's gonna listen to them?
At any rate, Frank noticeably did not tell us it was impossible that hurricanes can be moved by prayer. He simply says he's not sure.
"I just don't know," he says.
Frank says the ability of prayer to affect hurricanes is not as well documented as prayer's ability to trigger miraculous recoveries in dying patients.
Which means, we guess, that we're glad Frank is doing Channel 11's weather and not its health reports.
Not Talking Dirty
Every year Cosmopolitan magazine picks the "Hunkiest Hunks in America," consisting of one suitably manly man from each of the 50 states.
This year's Texas hunk is Houston's Michael McGown, a 31-year-old investment banker. As the photo shows, being a hunk requires posing for cheesy photos. It also requires talking to Hair Balls:
Q. Cosmo editor Kate White called this year's group of men "a veritable smorgasbord of studs." What does that make you?
A. For the sake of the smorgasbord, I'm not going to dignify that with a comment.
Q. Cosmo is famous for giving girls the 411 on how to please their guy. Any sex tips you'd like to share?
A. I think I'll save those for my stalkers, thanks.
Q. I've checked out Cosmo's Web site, and it suggests that men like to have their eyelids licked. Can this possibly be true?
A. If a guy likes a girl, he'll enjoy just about anything. [Hair Balls note: Except eyelid-licking.]
Q. Cosmo also recommends something called "bathroom booty." How's that work?
A. Really, I can't go there. My sister nominated me for this, remember?
Seeing how a tepid topic like "bathroom booty" gave this guy the vapors, we figured he'd be positively flummoxed by other Cosmo subjects this month, such as "How do I give my guy anal pleasure?" [Hair Balls tip: Don't lick his eyelids.]
So gals, have at it if you like. We guess Hunk-ism doesn't require stimulating conversation.
Alumni of the University of Houston recently got the latest communiqué from the school, full of the usual tidbits of information on fellow Cougars.
Graduates of the 1980s, for instance, learned that David Walton recently got his law degree from South Texas; 1990s Coogs discovered that Elizabeth Kuylen will be principal of a new HISD elementary next year.
And 1970s grads? They heard about some guy from the class of 1970. "Tom DeLay is running for re-election to represent the 22nd Congressional District of the great state of Texas," the blurb read.
Glad he's made something of himself. We can't wait until the next update. "Tom DeLay (1970) received an honorary Slap on the Wrist from Congress recently, in honor of his energetic efforts to improve political participation among American corporations."
Somewhere in The Woodlands -- or Spring; it's hard to tell -- lives a man with a billion-dollar dream.
Job Kareithi, according to various newspapers in Africa, may be on the verge of getting a contract with the Kenyan government to be the exclusive marketer of the country's coffee here in the United States, a deal that his company says could generate more than $1 billion a year.
For a billion-dollar company, though, Tetu Coffee Inc. doesn't exactly have a high profile. Kareithi told Kenyan authorities that Tetu is headquartered in Houston, but there's no listing for it. Kareithi told officials he lived in The Woodlands; a phone listing shows a Job Kareithi in Spring, but he didn't answer calls. Too busy counting up potential billions, we guess.
The proposed contract has triggered controversy in Kenya, with critics claiming it's a buddy deal to an unqualified crony. Africa News also reported that Kareithi, a former Kenya Air Force officer, has twice been denied entry into the U.S., something that might hamper his ability to run a billion-dollar marketing empire here.
For his part, Kareithi told another paper he is revolutionizing Kenya's coffee industry and that the current coffee cartel is so afraid of him they've planned to kill him. He compared himself to Martin Luther King in the interview.
Billion-dollar businesses, assassinations Who says The Woodlands is boring?
Job Kareithi isn't the only local resident with big marketing dreams. Two sisters from Pasadena, Darla Busch and Thelma Canales, also have visions of big bucks.
They are auctioning their bodies on eBay. Or at least part of them. For a minimum bid of $500,000 apiece, the sisters say they will allow a company logo or ad campaign to be tattooed on their heads, and they promise to keep their heads shaved for a year.
A million bucks? "Logos for major companies like 3M and stuff, that has to run them more than what I'm asking, by far," says Busch, who came up with the idea and obviously has done extensive marketing research on it. "And you're talking about my head. It's my body part. It's going to be a permanent thing that I'm going to have to live with."
They're willing to market any product, as long as it's not sexually explicit.
"Condoms wouldn't bother me," Busch says, "but when you're going beyond that, that's a little far. Beer wouldn't bother me any kind of sexual toys or anything, yeah, that would bother me."
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She says if companies want to extend the contract, "we'll sit down at the table."
Amazingly, no companies have bid yet. Of course, bureaucracies like IBM and Lexus move slowly, so we're sure it's just a matter of time.
And in case you're wondering, Canales says both were raised as "good Christians," so she would not consider getting a tattoo anywhere else on her body. Busch, though, says she's open to the idea -- for the right price.
Houston Grand Opera, are you listening?