There are a million sad stories in the files of the Houston chapter of the Better Business Bureau. Well, maybe not a million, but there are quite a few, and here are some of them.

There are a million sad stories in the files of the Houston chapter of the Better Business Bureau. Well, maybe not a million, but there are quite a few, and here are some of them.

Rod Paige and Scientology, Margaret Thatcher at the Warwick, Pool Owners and Public Works

Scientology Rumors Swirl

The inexplicable career of former HISD superintendent Rod Paige may be taking another strange turn: into the land of Xenu, thetans and L. Ron Hubbard.

Anti-Scientology groups have begun raising questions about whether Paige's consulting business, Chartwell Education, is about to become the latest ally of Scientology's effort to get into public-school systems.


Tom Cruise

They note that John Danielson, Chartwell's CEO, has had Scientology connections in the past and has pushed schools to use the "Study Tech" curriculum of Applied Scholastics, a nonprofit group begun by Scientology 30 years ago. (Applied Scholastics officials say their curriculum, adopted by schools in Texas, Louisiana and Florida, has nothing to do with Scientology. See "Between the Lines," December 16, 2004.)

While he was U.S. Secretary of Education, Paige met with Tom Cruise, the world's most famous Scientologist, who was reportedly seeking to tap into the Bush administration's faith-based-­initiatives money spigot.

Earlier this year, at the premiere of Cruise's latest film, Lions for Lambs, the toothy star invited a slew of Scientology officials — and Paige and Danielson.

"Paige is a great score, and a big win for Tom Cruise!" according to the Web site Scientology v. Education. "Scientology often boasts about using Mr. Cruise to reach world leaders, and Paige and Danielson have credentials that Scientology would hustle for."

(For the record, we're as agnostic on Scientology as we are on any religion: Some people believe Xenu used hydrogen bombs 75 million years ago; some people believe Jesus turned water into wine and rose from the dead. It's all good.)

Why would Paige partner with Scientology? He's always had a weakness for gimmicky programs, but more important, Scientologists are not shy about spending big bucks to further their religion. Or maybe Paige is just starstruck.

Nothing official has happened yet. When asked what, if any, connection exists between Chartwell and Applied Scholastics, Chartwell spokesman John Grimaldi is blunt: "None."

But we're pretty sure Tom Cruise didn't invite Paige to a movie premiere because he's such an entertaining guy.

Then again, maybe Tom just wanted to hear some great anecdotes about the cooked books on Sharpstown High's dropout rate. Or tales about Paige's stint as Texas Southern's football coach.

It wouldn't have been any duller than Lions for Lambs.

Locked in the Loo

In October 1977 Margaret Thatcher, soon to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, visited Houston. We are only now learning just how harrowing that trip was.

The Guardian recently reported that newly declassified papers show both Thatcher and her husband were highly dissatisfied with the Warwick Hotel (now Hotel Zazu).

"The start of the visit was marred by the failure of the Warwick Hotel to provide either a hairdresser or someone to press Mrs. Thatcher's dress," the documents note. "The hotel, in fact, became a joke with the Thatcher party. The inside door handle of the bathroom would not work properly and both Mr. Thatcher and Mrs. Thatcher had to be released from bondage on different occasions."

The Warwick may be gone, but we are eternally grateful to it for providing the mental image of Margaret Thatcher helplessly rattling the doorknob in the bathroom, desperate to get out and continue her quest to eliminate any government program she could.

Amazingly, the Brits have not learned from this disaster. Mitch Jeffrey, vice-consul of the British Consulate here, says there are no procedures in place to ensure that British PM Gordon Brown, should he come to Houston, would not be held in bondage by a bathroom door.

He says this after a long pause.

"I think that would be up to the hotels to make sure their equipment was working," he says.

That's the kind of thinking that probably got a vice-consul fired in 1977, dude.

Double Shot

If you're a pool owner, winter is the time for repairs such as retiling or replastering. This involves emptying the pool, which naturally then involves refilling it.

That means a big water bill for that month. And since sewer bills depend on water usage, residents could get hit with a double whammy.

For years, the city has allowed pool owners to get a one-time adjustment whereby their sewer bill will not be affected by the 25,000 or so gallons of water used in filling a pool. (The water taken out of the pool does not go through the city's sanitary sewer; it just flows out to the Gulf.)

No longer. As of January 1, you're paying both. That will cost some pool owners hundreds of dollars.

Public Works spokesman Alvin Wright said the city had provided the adjustment as "a courtesy," but could no longer do it.

"Many pool owners were asking for credit for evaporative loss of water or for partial pool fills, neither of which was included in the policy," he says. With the advent of pools that are not "uniformly rectangular or round," he says, city workers were spending "an inordinate amount of time...trying to determine whether the adjustment was for a total fill."

The city didn't exactly go out of its way to publicize the change in policy, which was made in August. Pool owners will only find out about it, for the most part, when they get the application form and see the bold print saying the adjustment is not valid for refills after January 1, 2008.

Happy New Year!

Tales from the BBB

There are a million sad stories in the files of the Houston chapter of the Better Business Bureau. Well, maybe not a million, but there are quite a few. And here are some of them, courtesy of Dry Clean Super Center in the Heights.


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