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Wait Your Turn

The folks at the City of Houston just can't seem to get the hang of inspecting low-income homes for dangerous lead paint.

They've used unqualified inspectors, accepted inadequate reports and just generally made a hash of things (see "Lead Astray," March 4, 2004). The federal government, through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has ordered Houston to re-inspect 4,000 homes in order for HUD to resume making payments to the city's home-repair and Homebuyer Assistance programs.

You won't be shocked to learn that it will take a while to make all those inspections. What you might be surprised to find out, though, is that the city isn't notifying any of the residents of those 4,000 homes that they may be living with a lead-paint problem. Those people don't know anything's amiss until they get a call right before a city inspector comes out.


Lead paint

"As we are going down the list, we are contacting folks and saying, 'Hi, we're with the city; we'd like to come back out and re-inspect your home. We see that there is a problem and it's gonna be fixed,' " says Wendy Holm, spokesperson for the Houston and Community Development Department.

Holm says the re-inspections began in March, and 750 homes have been visited. At that rate, according to our calculations, it will take almost four years to finish the job.

Lead paint can cause brain and kidney damage; young children who might taste or pick up paint chips are most at risk.

Shouldn't the people living in, say, the house that's 3,897th on the list to be re-inspected get some notice that they might not be living in the lead-free home they're assuming they live in?

Apparently not. Holm says no such notices are being sent, and they aren't necessary because the city is working so fast.

"We are making good progress on this," she says.

So if you're living in low-income housing that might be at risk for lead paint, don't be upset. Think of it as a mystery that eventually will be solved. In almost four years.

A Very Perry Christmas

The mystery of the Perry Christmas cards has been revealed!

As we reported last week, Governor Rick Perry's Christmas cards -- or, as he calls them, Holiday Cards -- this year did not feature the usual scowling faces of the First Couple. Instead there was a painting that looked like it was set in the Governor's Mansion, but that did not seem to be of the actual Perry family.

Ruth Munson, the Houston artist who painted the picture, says it is indeed the Perrys. Or at least some of them.

That contented couple smiling by the tree? That's the two Perry children. The two youngsters frolicking in the foreground? The governor's nieces.

"It was entirely my decision what to paint," Munson says. "They sent me a whole lot of images, and this is the one I chose."

So why didn't the governor's press office have any idea what the picture showed when we asked them? "I don't know why," she says. "They certainly should have."

Whose Side Are You On?

If you're a Houston Chronicle reader, you know who the enemy is. "Terror War Takes Hit on Home Front," blared the main front-page headline December 17. "President Bush's war on terrorism suffered a double blow Friday," the story in question began.

Gosh -- who would be against a war on terror? Someone who supports terror, right?

Well, not exactly. It turns out that if you have any sort of concerns about civil rights being hampered by, say, the government's eavesdropping on citizens without a warrant, then you are against the "war on terror." At least in the Chronicle's view.

Chron editor Jeff Cohen says he sees nothing wrong with the headline. "Your interpretation is, at best, unique," he says.

Damn. That must mean we're on the side of the terrorists. We'll never be allowed on an airplane again.


We have seen the official statements from both Continental Airlines and Lakewood Church, which taken together seem to imply that absolutely nothing out of the ordinary happened before a flight December 21. Since the flight was delayed two hours and Joel and Victoria Osteen, Lakewood's pastor and wife, eventually took another flight to get to their Vail vacation, we have to wonder if there wasn't something to the reports that Victoria threw a hissy fit over the lack of attention she was getting in the first-class cabin.

We also had to wonder, of course…What would Jesus do?

a. In the first place, Jesus wouldn't be taking a vacation in Vail.

b. In the second place, Jesus wouldn't be flying first class.

c. In the third place, Jesus probably wouldn't be bitching at the flight attendants.

d. All of the above.


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