Charles Lutz, board president of the Police Activities League, is getting ready to shut things down. The 14 vans that pick up kids, the $100,000 service center, the meals, everything used to keep kids from joining gangs, is headed to the mothballs.
Despite a last-minute campaign to save it, PAL apparently isn't going to survive the budget cuts Mayor Bill White and new HPD chief Harold Hurtt are being forced to implement to balance the city's budget.
"I really think it's dead," Lutz says.
Hurtt told City Councilmembers June 3 that he believes PAL is a worthy program, but the dozen or so officers assigned to it are simply needed more urgently elsewhere.
When the new fiscal year begins July 1, the PAL officers will almost certainly be reassigned. And PAL's bylaws require such officers to drive the cars or provide the services; if they're gone, the organization will have to give away to other charities all the private donations it's received.
The only other options are long shots, Lutz says: trying to hook up with the equally budget-crunched Harris County Sheriff's Department, or rewriting the group's charter so that retired HPD officers can be used.
There's not much time to do either. Especially since Hurtt's major reshuffling of the department has officers scrambling not to get shut out of the best reassignments.
Current PAL officers can't afford to wait to see if the program survives before they put in for other slots, Lutz says. Some are choosing to retire.
"I got 30 years here," says PAL Sergeant Wesley Andrews. "I'm old, fat and ugly, and I don't want to work in the jail or put the gun belt back on and patrol the streets. PAL's a really viable program. I think it's a shame."
Summer brings with it a lot more travel, and travel brings with it a lot more pee anxiety.
For the ladies, of course. Guys generally don't devote a lot of psychic energy to worrying about taking a leak. But women? It's a world of, as the inventors of My Sweet Pee put it, "lining the toilet with paper, crouching, or having to sit down on filthy seats in a public restroom!"
The urgency denoted by that exclamation point led to creativity from Vivian Lipman and Joyce Nimetz, retired twin sisters from Houston who are marketing the My Sweet Pee shield.
Despite its name, the shield does nothing to sweeten your urine; instead the flat piece of rubber allows a woman to pee standing up. "It molds into a funnel shape and acts as a splash guard and trough," Lipman says. (But can you write your name in the snow with it? Apparently not.)
My Sweet Pee comes in both reusable and disposable models. A "citrus cleanser" allegedly allays any fears that a woman (who refuses to pee normally in a public restroom) might have about sticking a urine-soaked piece of rubber in her purse.
It's $14.95 for a reusable and $11.95 for ten disposables. And if you're not interested at the moment, "It's a wonderful little stocking stuffer," Lipman says.
We're sure it is. Our suggestion: Put it in a Tiffany box before you wrap it. Imagine the look of surprise on the little lady's face
What's in a Name?
Vox, a weekly in the University of Missouri town of Columbia, reports that UM is having a little difficulty filling an endowed chair in economics.
Even with a $1.1 million endowment, the position has remained open for years. More than two dozen business and economics professors wrote an open letter decrying the chair as an embarrassment.
Why? Maybe because it's the Kenneth L. Lay Chair in International Economics.
Geez, the next thing you know these ivory-towered types will be criticizing the George Tenet Chair in Slam-Dunk Analysis. Or the Ben Affleck Endowed Chair in Choosing Film Roles.
Luckily, in Houston we have no such concerns. Lay, the Enron kingpin who can still proudly wear the label "as yet unindicted," is a graduate of the University of Houston and has endowed two professorships there. Two professorships that are quite filled, thank you very much, thanks to UH's administrative policy of No Qualms Here when it comes to Enron. (Or, for that matter, the flashy and controversial plaintiff's lawyer John O'Quinn.)
One Lay professorship is in economics, and the other is in social sciences.
And we infer absolutely nothing into the fact that the economics one is held by a man with the first name of Bent. We're sure Bent E. Sorenson, who holds the Dr. Kenneth L. Lay Endowed Professorship in UH's Department of Economics, is an absolute straight shooter. As is Kenny Boy, if you determine "straight shooter" status by the number of indictments.
Those That Can't Teach
Of course, sometimes it's better to leave an educational position open. Former mayor Lee Brown is back at Rice University, but he's not going anywhere near a classroom.
In past stints at Rice, Brown's reviews from students taking his classes were, to put it kindly, brutal. "It was like a really bad high school class where all we did was read out of textbooks," one student told the Houston Press as the mayor was leaving City Hall.
We're just surprised anyone forced to endure a semester of Brown lectures actually had enough human spirit left to voice a criticism.
One person who dealt with Brown over the years recently asked a Rice administrator how they could hire the guy. "He rolled his eyes and told me, 'We're no longer letting him teach, we're not paying him any money -- we're just letting him use an office,'" says the former colleague, who did not want to be named.
Brown is researching a criminal justice book. Just as he has been all throughout the explosion of bad budget news he left in his wake, he was unavailable for comment.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Kyrie O'Connor was brought in earlier this year as a Houston Chronicle editor to rejuvenate the paper's tired features section. So far that's meant a lot of "breaking news" featurettes, such as laugh-free Top Ten career suggestions for whoever just got booted off a reality show.
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As a Zeitgeist Queen, she's also offering a daily "cultural blog" on the paper's Web site. The only words that can describe its bizarreness are her own; here are some actual selections from the past few weeks of the blog, minus the links to whatever sites she's found:
I'm sorry about the Iran earthquake. But if you want to avoid earthquakes, don't go to Iran And I love the idea that people step back and think. My buddy Joy's mother asked the other day, "What is the purpose of squirrels?" It's just another sign of devolution that nobody uses the excellent words "dirigible" or "zeppelin" anymore, and opts instead for "blimp," which is also a good word, come to think of it There is nothing more frightening than watching a dozen dogs eat a doggy birthday cake Does it bother anyone else that [The Bachelor] Jesse chose Jessica? That if someone yelled "Jess!" they'd both turn around? Phyllis in "Gasoline Alley" has died Absolute favorite weird new product: Newman's Own dog food As you may know, I am obsessed with names that are complete sentences
And it goes on (and on) like that. Luckily there's no need to read the actual blog -- here are some upcoming entries for July and August:
Are your sneakers smelling worse to you these days? Mine are When they outlaw Peeps, only outlaws will have Peeps Ever notice how just when you think you're getting too self-obsessed, something great happens to you that you simply have to share with the world? Dog lovers unite! Because then we could all get together and talk about dogs Did you know that if you have a blog, all you have to do is check other blogs to come up with interesting links? But I guess that's a trade secret Boy, those Astros are frustrating Remember those toys or jingles from your youth? I do