They all laughed at Greg Roof when he ran for mayor of Galveston two years ago. Which was probably a reasonable reaction, seeing as Roof may or may not have been living in the city at the time.
They laughed again this year when he tried to force a referendum on the city's efforts to install parking meters on the seawall.
But they're not laughing now.
City officials threw out Roof's first petition, so he came back with a more narrowly worded version and got 2,500 signatures. Mayor Bo Quiroga and City Attorney Susie Green dissed that one, too, saying the parking meters were a zoning issue that couldn't become the subject of a referendum.
The 14th Court of Appeals disagreed, though, and now Galveston voters will be deciding the parking issue May 15, the same day they choose a new mayor and city council.
Technically, the referendum calls for amending the city charter to allow for yet another referendum on whether the meters can be installed.
Quiroga, who's not up for re-election, says the March 5 court ruling could lead to a rash of referendums on the island. "I guess if they wanted to prevent Hispanics from running for mayor, they could ask for that too," he says. Considering the intense, nasty and raucous political circus that Galveston tends to be, this possibility has the hearty endorsement of every reporter in the state. (Only the ones who can drop in for a quickie feature, though. Covering it all on a daily basis? No thanks.)
Roof, an economics professor at Alvin Community College, calls the court decision a win for the American way. "We protected democracy not only for the citizens of Galveston but for the entire state of Texas," he says, modestly.
Now would some Galvestonian please get started on a new petition? Maybe the "No Shirts, No Shoes -- Yes, Dammit, Service" drive. Galveston -- a little bit of California here in Texas.
Demand a Recount!
The March 9 primary election was a real nail-biter for George W. Bush in Harris County (a.k.a. "the front lines" in any Vietnam-era Bush bio).
It wasn't close in the GOP primary, although more than 5,000 local Republicans voted for "uncommitted" rather than the incumbent. But in the matchup between Bush and the combined Democratic vote for presidential candidates, Bush won by a mere 79 votes out of over 147,000 cast.
"If I'm right in what I'm sensing, that all the passion, intensity and anger is on the Democratic side, then Texas could be in play in November," says Harris County Democratic chair Gerry Birnberg, who should perhaps be identified as "the usually more levelheaded Gerry Birnberg."
But still, only 79 votes -- where's the Florida-style outrage? Where are the hordes of bused-in congressional aides starting a faux riot at the county clerk's office?
Alas, no hanging chads in Harris County to examine -- the new E-Slate machines leave no paper trail. And Bush won by a small margin? Hmm
Good Product Placement
Speaking of the president, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo got some international publicity when Bush flew in from Crawford to visit it March 8. (Just two days after he blew off brother Neil's River Oaks wedding -- Neil, you loser!!)
It wasn't the visit so much as it was John Kerry's reaction that garnered the ink. "If the president of the United States can find time to go to a rodeo, he can spend more than one hour before the [9/11] commission," the Democrat said. The next day the White House indicated (vaguely) it was no longer insisting on a one-hour limit.
Sound bites don't get much more effective than that. We assume the rodeo will be jumping all over this: "The Rodeo -- We're Boot-Scootin', Not Stonewallin'!!" Or maybe, "Find Time For the Rodeo -- No Questions Asked!!"
Probably not. We asked rodeo spokeswoman Paige Mudd if she was aware of the Kerry quote. "Not even," she answered, strangely. She then directed all questions to the White House.
And we know how good the White House is with questions.
I Have a (Lucid) Dream
James Robbins is not a cliché, dammit. Just because he's a bearded, sensitive guy who teaches guitar, has a master's in creative writing, is married to a former model named Heather with whom he gives lectures on Buddhism, Zen, sexuality and well, okay, forget all that "not a cliché" business.
Robbins is coming to town March 20 to teach what he calls lucid dreaming. Folks who are aggressively, if not painfully, open-minded can learn about the centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist practice of "waking up" during your dreams to, in essence, change the plot. Scared of snakes? "Wake up" during whatever dream you're having and walk into a snake pit. You can't be bitten, and you'll gain confidence confronting your fears! Theoretically.
We asked Robbins for further details.
Q. Can you wake up in your lucid dream and decide that you're tired and just want to go to sleep?
A. You can, but you are already asleep there's really no physiological advantage to it.
Q. If you're having an argument with your wife, could you have a lucid dream to get in the last word?
A. When folks gain more facility and skill in lucid dreaming, they begin to actually experience lucid dreams together My wife and I have had experiences in which we directly communicate in the lucid-dreaming state, so --
Q. Back up for a second. Is this like telepathy?
A. I would not use that word I don't particularly care for the word "telepathy" because it sounds kind of kooky. [A pause here while the questioner focuses intensely on not saying the words "pot" or "kettle."]
Q. Does your wife ever nag you?
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SHOW ME HOW
A. In the lucid dream?
A. Typically in the dreaming environment, folks tend to be much more amenable. They're kind of like the ideal version of themselves.
Robbins is dreaming you'll spend 50 bucks to hear more, at Houston's Edgar Cayce Center. That's the Edgar Cayce Center, named after the famous psychic who predicted that in 1958 the U.S. would discover a "death ray." From the lost island of Atlantis.