What you can get for a dollar these days.
What you can get for a dollar these days.

Low-Cost Housing

There's a charming small house at 2318 Greens Road, almost 2,000 square feet of living space, nice shuttered windows, new-ish roof and a carport. Want it? It'll cost you….a dollar.

Has the infamously dreaded Housing Bubble finally hit Houston? Not exactly.

The house on Greens Road is one of 158 homes being sold for a buck by the Houston Airport System. HAS purchased the houses on the south side of the airport after a runway expansion brought with it so much noise the homes became unlivable.

Rather than just tear the things down, city councilman Gordon Quan pushed to make them available for sale. The catch -- they can only be sold to non-profit groups who provide housing to low-income people.

The other catch -- those groups have to pay to move the buildings, and that can cost $10,000 or more, says Kate Kuffner of the city's Housing and Community Development office.

Some of the houses are unlikely to be sold -- they've been abandoned for a while and have become run-down, or they'd be too expensive to move because they're two stories or have a slab foundation rather than pier-and-beam. But 50 or 60 of the houses, Kuffner says, "are cherry, primo movable homes."

Twenty-one housing groups such as Jails To Jobs and Harmony House toured the ghost town of condemned homes August 11. They'll have to show HAS they can move the things and have a place to put them. If more than one group wants a particular house, HAS will pick a name out of a hat to determine the winner.

The groups have 90 days to pick 'em up and move 'em out. Anything left standing after that time gets bulldozed.

"It's a pretty unprecedented effort by the city council and the city to help people with low incomes find housing," Kuffner says.

The houses are sold "as is, where-is," according to HAS. So if the bedroom door jamb starts messing up after your purchase, you're out of luck. You'll just have to eat that dollar.

Fat Paycheck

Andrew "Junior Boy" Jones is a staple of the Dallas blues scene and has played on albums by blues legends Charlie Musselwhite and Katie Webster. He's also recorded an album of his own called Watch What You Say, but when it comes to former Cheers star Kirstie Alley, maybe he should rename it Watch What You Play.

Jones is suing Alley in a New York federal court for copyright infringement, claiming the star's Showtime series Fat Actress played his epic blues lament "Big Leg, Heavy Bottom" without paying him for it.

The song played on the series premiere March 7 as Alley danced with John Travolta. Jones wants $150,000 for each time it played, and with episode repeats so far that'd be close to $3 million.

What Jones doesn't want, according to attorney Brian Gucciardo, is anything to do with discussing the suit. Gucciardo said Jones would have no comment, apparently as part of a shrewd publicity campaign that involves keeping his name out of the public eye.

Alley, it turns out, keeps a blog on the Jenny Craig Web site documenting her attempts to lose weight. As the accompanying chart shows, there are plenty of other blues songs available to her.

Cuts and Complaints

Metro has been trying for some time now to save money by cutting low-ridership bus routes, but the only people grumbling about it have been passengers. Now it's the drivers' turn.

The agency has cut its employee-shuttle service, four buses that pick up drivers whose shifts have ended and take them back to the barn to pick up their cars. (A fifth shuttle is operated by a private sub-contractor and will continue to run.)

"Now you're going to get off work and instead of taking the shuttle, you're going to have to wait an hour for the local bus and then get in your car and go home," says Brenda McClinton, who operates one of the shuttles. "Some people will have to walk five blocks to get the bus they need."

Metro spokesman Ken Connaughton says the shuttle was eliminated because of low ridership figures. Most drivers don't use it, he says -- out of 362 drivers assigned to the Polk bus barn, for example, only 51 drivers take the shuttle each weekday.

Eliminating the shuttles will save…some amount. "The savings total isn't known yet," Connaughton says.

McClinton, who is on the verge of retiring after 28 years with Metro, says the shuttle elimination is just the latest step by new CEO Frank Wilson that is upsetting the troops.

"The morale is extremely low under this new CEO," she says. "All you hear from people is 'Are you going to retire? Are you going to retire?' "

Connaughton is not exactly sympathetic. "Whenever there is new management," he says, "and that management makes changes, it brings about a certain amount of uncertainty and anxiety in any organization. This management team has made it clear it intends to improve performance of the organization as a whole and every individual in it."

Take that, you whiners. And think about it while you're waiting for the bus at the end of your shift.

The Devil and St. Luke's

It's safe to say that reaction has been mixed to the announcement that the skyscraper at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital will be named for plaintiffs' attorney John O'Quinn, who's made a large part of his fortune suing doctors. And by "mixed" we mean some doctors are horrified, others merely appalled.

O'Quinn is donating $25 million to St. Luke's and in return, the edifice -- known heretofore to Houstonians as "That Crazy-Ass Building That Looks Like Two Syringes" -- will be the John O'Quinn Tower.

Angry petitions have been circulated, so far to no avail. (Avail is hard to come by when someone's donating $25 million.)

One doctor -- who doesn't want his name used for fear O'Quinn "will retaliate" -- offered Hair Balls a different perspective.

Naming a medical building after O'Quinn is a great idea, the doctor said, and should start a trend.

Among the renaming possibilities being tossed around:

The Hilton School of Restaurant Management at UH could become The Jeffrey Dahmer Institute of Fine Cooking. The Mental Health and Mental Retardation headquarters should be The Hannibal Lecter Institute of Mental Sciences. And the Houston Area Women's Center could be The BTK Killer Institute.

Doctors. What a bunch of comedians.

Strange Bedfellows

The National Rifle Association is a wild-eyed liberal, tree-hugging bunch of anti-war hippies, if a recent development is any indication.

The NRA is protesting against two of Houston's favorite corporate villains -- oil giant ConocoPhillips and Iraq boondoggler Halliburton -- because those fascist outfits are trying to keep employees from carrying personal weapons in cars parked on company lots.

The companies have joined a lawsuit that's trying to block an Oklahoma law allowing employees to keep guns in their cars, and that is just too much for NRA president Wayne LaPierre. "We didn't seek this fight…[but] we're not running away from it," he told The New York Times.

Since Houston is mecca for lefty groups griping about global warming and unnecessary wars, we wondered whether the NRA would be joining the annual circus outside the Halliburton stockholders' meeting.

We told an NRA spokesman we wanted to ask about their potential new alliance with No Blood For Oil and Greenpeace; the spokesman promised someone would get back.

Unfortunately, no one had by deadline. We're sure they were all busy perfecting their "Dick Cheney Is A Crook" signs.


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