Annise Parker Tries To Spin Away The Loss Of Continental

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Dozens of reporters stood cheek to cheek inside Houston Mayor Annise Parker's stuffy press room Monday afternoon seemingly waiting with bated breathe to hear what she would say about today's announced merger between Continental and United.

But in truth, there wasn't a whole hell of a lot she could say. In today's America, barring some sort of pesky federal antitrust interference, corporations rule the roost and pretty much do what they please. And in this case, that appears to mean firing a bunch of well-paid corporate suits and moving the airline's headquarters to Chicago.

Yes, Parker and the City say they will fight to keep as many jobs as possible, but the overall tone Monday afternoon was forced optimism with a dash of resignation.

"Our pride has been nicked a little bit that the headquarters will be in Chicago," said Parker. However, "We are excited about the opportunities to grow the Houston airport system."

Parker said that Houston will the gateway to Latin and South America as the biggest hub for the new carrier, which stands to be the largest in the world if both shareholders and the feds give the deal a thumbs up. Executives hope the deal is completed by the end of this calendar year.

Parker, along with state and federal representatives on hand Monday, expressed dismay that the HQ will move to United's base in Illinois, but said they don't believe the long-term effects will be too bad. While the airline has admitted that some corporate positions here will be lost, Parker said it is premature to speculate on total job loss or tax losses to the region.

When asked if she thought this merger spelled doom and a devastating economic blow to Houston, Parker said that thinking was "alarmist" and "wrong."

Instead, Parker said that she hopes the merger will enable the Houston airport system as a whole to grow, meaning more jobs down the road, and that the United brass in Chicago will quickly realize that Houston "is a more cost-effective place" because Texas does not impose a fuel tax or personal income tax, and is considered to be a cheaper place to live.

In the end, though, there really wasn't much for Parker to say other than, "This is a business town and this was a business decision. We certainly understand this decision."

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