The Horror! The Horror!
For fans of classic movie matchups such as Godzilla vs. King Kong or Rodan vs. Mothra, next spring's GOP primary for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission promises a pairing for the ages. Former congressman Steve Stockman is already in the hunt for the party's nomination -- and has ejected from his cushy vice-presidency at Galveston's Moody National Bank in the process -- while Houston City Controller Lloyd Kelley is also planning to enter the race while simultaneously seeking re-election as controller in the November 4 city election.
A third likely candidate in the statewide Republican contest is Victoria state Representative Steve Holzheauser, chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee. His slogan reportedly will be, "I'm normal."
Stockman claims the support of 42 members of the State Republican Executive Committee, a stronghold of GOP social conservatives. But Kelley political consultant Allen Blakemore says that Stockman's wacky presence in the race actually bolsters Kelley's chances among GOP energy executives.
"Stockman's history in Washington was one of foot-in-mouth disease," opines Blakemore. "I don't think they want that on the railroad commission. They want somebody who's going to be more dependable and easier to get along with."
And if they want tips on the care and feeding of a lap dog, all they have to do is check with Mayor Bob Lanier.
The Boney Report
City Councilman Jew Don Boney is certainly a quick study in self-promotion, as constituents in his District D will discover when the latest edition of his 16-page, taxpayer-funded Boney Report begins hitting their mailboxes this week.
Costing $4,500 for a run of 10,000 mailings, the Boney Report features a color cover portrait of the councilman positioned on the lordly perch of a freeway overpass with the downtown skyline in the background. It also includes ten other snapshots of the first-term councilman, as well as a wealth of Boney's opinions on various subjects that go well beyond the melange of information on city services and self-praise for various and sundry legislative accomplishments usually found in councilmembers' newsletters.
The issue is actually the second installment of what Boney plans as a continuing information source for District D. Perhaps it should be renamed the Boney City News.
The councilman, who's up for re-election this November, could not ask for a better promotional vehicle, especially since the report cost him nothing in campaign funds. Put together by Council aide Kimberly Nichols and two other contributors, the report includes a blast at Chevron for failing to settle a pollution suit brought by the residents of the mostly-black Kennedy Heights subdivision. Besides a photo of Boney and the Reverend Jesse Jackson at a "Stop Chevron" protest, the Boney Report plugs a Jackson-led boycott of the oil giant. A Jackson comment also suggests the recommended outcome: "This is chemical warfare. And we are demanding fairness and justice. We urge Chevron to re-settle the people and settle the damages."
In addition to revealing that he receives 24.2 phone messages and attends 8.78 meetings and events daily, Boney also uses the mailout to attack the "Houston Civil Rights Initiative" expected to be on the November ballot. That effort by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum and others would ban city efforts to set hiring goals for minority and women contractors.
"Although Edward Blum's carefully crafted initiative uses the same words as the 1965 Voting Rights Act passed during President Lyndon Johnson's administration," states an un-bylined story in the report, "it is a bad thing for Houston because it does not have the same intentions of offering a level playing field for everyone." A highlighted quote, presumably from the councilman, declares, "I believe in being forewarned against those who are going to do something for us." The Boney Report also must be the first missive from a Houston councilmember to refer to "America's capitalist economy," where "money is the great equalizer."
Blum did not respond to the attack on his latest colorblind project. As for Boney, he says his constituents expect him to keep in touch, and he sees nothing improper about using city funds to do it. "Too often," says the councilman, "what happens on these issues is that people don't know what's going on, they don't understand the issues, they don't have the facts. What I'm committed to doing is put the greatest amount of information in people's hands, so that they have the actual facts."
And a veritable scrapbook of snapshots of the councilman to boot.
The Kelley Report
The Shaun Kelley celebrity probation hearing came off last week in state district court, with such notables as mayoral contender and Councilwoman Helen Huey and City Attorney Gene Locke in rapt attendance. Councilman John Kelley's son, who's been in the county jail since late May, found himself in Judge Mark Kent Ellis's dock for the seemingly trivial offense of violating probation by munching on a codeine-packed Tylenol 3 capsule supplied by a fellow prisoner.
For the typical probationer represented by a court-appointed lawyer, the legal exercise would have taken ten minutes, if that. But for a councilman's son represented by semi-retired legal legend Richard "Racehorse" Haynes, it took a day's court time, with no clear-cut conclusion, other than that, yes, Kelley did flunk a urine test for drugs.
Probably the only reason Kelley was taken to court in the first place is his position at the center of a seemingly unending probe by District Attorney Johnny Holmes and his assistants of former state district judge Lupe Salinas. The DA went through four different grand juries to secure perjury indictments against Salinas over errant campaign reports, but another judge threw out the charges. By then, however, Salinas had lost a presidential appointment to a federal bench and had lost his state post to Republican challenger Ellis.
In the closing days of his term, Salinas dismissed Shaun Kelley's probated ten-year sentence for possession of cocaine, apparently at the instigation of a lawyer hired by Councilman Kelley. After the district attorney questioned the legality of the dismissal of Kelley's case, Ellis then reinstated the probated sentence and had the younger Kelley jailed, where he developed that big legal headache by ingesting the Tylenol 3 and then flunking the urine test ordered by Ellis at the DA's request.
While the DA is publicly pushing to have Kelley sent to prison for violating probation, more than a few folks suspect the real game at hand is a pressure play on Kelley to secure his cooperation in the investigation of the dismissal granted by Salinas. Ellis has not yet ruled on where Shaun Kelley's next place of residence will be, leaving some room for dealmaking.
Haynes says the Salinas probe has a definite tie-in to his client's predicament, a sentiment echoed by City Attorney Locke. "I think it appears to be tainted with a lot of partisan politics," says Locke, "and if that is true, it's very unfortunate."
For much of the daylong probation hearing, Ellis and first assistant district attorney Don Stricklin seemed unwilling to rein in Racehorse, who did his best to impersonate F. Lee Bailey at the O.J. trial. Haynes stretched the cross-examination of jail personnel into hourlong digressions on the ins and outs of record-keeping, and tried the unlikely legal tack of claiming the urine test violated Shaun Kelley's Fourth Amendment right against illegal search and seizure. Never mind that Kelley was on probation and had signed a statement acknowledging he was subject to unscheduled urine tests at any time.
"I'll bet Johnny Holmes has gotten capital murder convictions in less time than this," wisecracked one reporter as the hearing dragged on ... and on, and on.
Over the course of several hours, viewers learned far more than they ever wanted to know about urine tests. Haynes suggested that Kelley suffered from an inability to urinate with others watching, and may have been threatened by DA investigator Dan McAnulty's suggestion that he might be catheterized if he failed to produce. Testimony indicated that after a few glasses of water, Kelley finally delivered the goods.
Haynes also attempted to make hay out of the court phobias of HPD chemist Frank Hua. Haynes mystified the chemist by suggesting that some of Shaun's urine might be missing, though there was no suggestion it had been planted at a crime scene. After Haynes began dipping into the urinalysis report Hua had brought, the chemist lamented, "People warn me, I shouldn't take this with me to court. I get in trouble." When Haynes observed that the report "shows almost nothing" with regard to drugs in Kelley's system, Hua began protesting, "No, no, no." Undeterred, Haynes declared of the chemist's finding, "If that was a brain wave, it would indicate a dead person."
After enduring a wealth of such Racehorse-isms, Hua ruefully admitted, "No one like come to court. I don't understand lawyer talk."
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During a break in the comedy, the crimson-and-pearl-clad Huey explained that she had come to support her close friends Councilman Kelley and his wife Emogene. Huey came away from the hearing with two mental notes: "One, don't get on the wrong side of Racehorse Haynes," and "Is the city charging for doing drug tests for the county?" That's a reference to the fact that the DA's investigator took Shaun Kelley's urine to the HPD lab for testing because the Harris County Medical Examiner requires two to three weeks to conduct the test and provide results.
Councilman Kelley was less than chipper during court breaks, refusing to comment to reporters. But he did have a special message for The Insider regarding our previous coverage of his son's predicament: "You don't write worth a shit," growled the councilman as we pumped his hand.
At least he didn't say we don't write worth a Tylenol 3-tainted urine sample.
Call The Insider at 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax), or e-mail him at Insider@houston-press.com.