Earlier this year Cassandra Washington, the proprietress of one of the largest black-owned printing businesses in Houston, signed an agreement for a $400,000 small business loan with a local bank. The only loose end in the arrangement was that Washington needed a city extension on a permit that allowed her Texas Printing office at 4715 Main Street to encroach on city property by a half-inch on one side and three-tenths of an inch on the other.
Such permits are routinely approved by City Council every week, and Washington got assurances from city officials that it would be a formality to extend the arrangement from its current 2012 deadline an additional three years. She went ahead and signed for the loan, and sat back and waited for council approval.
Suddenly last month a mysterious wave of opposition to the permit developed on council. District C's Mark Goldberg delayed the vote on the permit extension ordinance, citing concerns that the Texas Department of Transportation might need the property for a freeway entrance.
Staffers for Mayor Lee Brown hurriedly solicited a letter from TXDOT Director of District Right of Way Frances Williams assuring council that the state had no plans for the land around Washington's business.
Undeterred, Goldberg then argued that the city might need the land in the future for street projects. His opposition did not end when a public works official issued a missive saying there were no current or proposed projects involving Washington's property.
Undaunted, Goldberg continued to oppose the permit, and two weeks ago rallied the conservative bloc on council to defeat it via a 6-6 tie.
Washington says the vote is a bankruptcy sentence for her business, since the loan was predicated on approval of the extension.
"I have no time to be hateful to those men," says the printer, of the six councilmen who voted against the permit. "I knew I needed the extension. But I could not have imagined I was rolling the dice that high in agreeing to the terms."
Washington was at a loss to understand why the permit extension wasn't approved, particularly since all of Goldberg's objections had been satisfied.
It turns out Goldberg was simply a front for the real opponent. In a conversation with The Insider, the councilman admits he was asked to oppose the permit by District B Councilwoman Carol Galloway, who was not even present when the 6-6 vote took place.
Goldberg says Galloway gave him a reason for her opposition that he will not disclose. Asked the motive, he replies, "I guess it would be considered political."
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SHOW ME HOW
Washington, it turns out, was the printer for Richard Johnson, who waged a bitter campaign against Galloway in the 1999 election to succeed Michael Yarbrough. Galloway, it seems, is still harboring some grudges from that election.
Asked whether she opposed the permit extension to exact a political payback on the printer, Galloway claimed, "I don't have bad blood against anybody." Galloway said she had good reasons for objecting to the ordinance to help Washington, "but I can't recall what they were."
So here's the diagram for this council play: Black woman councilmember from District B gets revenge on black woman printer from District D by using white Jewish dude from District C to shove in the knife.
Et tu, Carol?