When Hair Balls first cast about for reasons behind Houston Woman Magazine's selection of Helena Brown as one of Houston's "50 Most Influential Women" earlier this month, the only thing we could come away with was a statement from Brown's office. According to the councilwoman's coterie, her selection attested to her "eyes-wide-open approach to city governance." That's one way to phrase it, I suppose.
But, then, perhaps they're on to something. The woman does have a certain knack for perking our attention. And her latest hobby is precisely in line with the sort of mind that would bevel $3,000 into a campaign-magnet collection, or that would hire a "senior advisor" previously banned from the investment industry for a six-figure debt.
For the past few months, Brown, who represents District A, has taken the time to, ahem, open our eyes to her latest agenda votes. (Now she prefers transparency?) As a woman about town, Brown has hauled "student/intern reporter Claudia Miranda," a deer-in-the-headlights college student -- and one of the few staff members under Brown to not resign, apparently -- to the councilwoman's favorite local haunts. Café Adobe. House of Fries. Mission of Yahweh. You can smell the pandering from here.
The intrepid councilwoman, with a shaky cameraman, tapes these encounters, often alongside a local, confused business-owner. After a brief description of whichever product these businesses are trying to hawk, the camera then zooms to the councilwoman for a three-minute rundown of the measures that she'd voted against that week.
None of the videos, alas, have more than a few dozen views. (She tops out with a September 26 offering that features, tellingly, neither Miranda nor a local, confused business leader.)
However, this week's video may have the best production to date:
Opening with a glossy, EasyCut-esque opening, the clip falls directly into the wobbly land of handheld cell phone cameras. David Hruska, the general manager at Mossy Nissan -- one of only 3,042 District A residents to vote for Brown? -- somehow manages to mask his confusion when congratulating Brown on her "influence" about town, before diving into a rote spiel of family-and-business-and-come-on-down!
Miranda then tosses it over to Brown, looking like an uptight, kerchief'd show-woman in front of a new white Nissan. Before detailing the list of her grievances, Brown wants the viewer to be aware that she voted against seven of the forty items on this week's agenda. A long cry from her previous 50 percent down-vote clip, but, hey, maybe this week's slate was simply short of the United Nations hegemony that Brown's so proudly opposed in office.
Shuffling through a sheath of her no-votes, Brown takes it away:
Agenda Item No. 13: $7.1 million for "so-called" HIV prevention activities.
No. 14: $1.8 million for HIV surveillance activities. "What are we doing as a city, uh, getting involved in surveilling, uh, medical situations, or, uh, HIV, uh, -type activities?" Brown asked, eyes befuddled. "Wha-, what is, what is that all about? And, uh, perhaps we can handle these situations and these efforts better in the private sector as we are faced with a serious financial crisis in the city."
(It's at this point that I realized Gotye's "Somebody that I Used to Know" is bleating in the background. I'm sure there's a connection there, somewhere.)
No. 15, with a new car behind her: $440,000 to "supposedly" combat juvenile delinquency and premature sexual activity.
No. 16: $421,000 for child-care services.
No. 17, with her now in the car: $3.5 million to assist the homeless, or those at risk. "Of course this is always better handled in the private sector, and they do such a better job at, uh, addressing these homeless needs."
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No. 18: $750,000 for a no-cost summer day camp and after-school program. "Through the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, curiously."
No. 40: Maintaining CenterPoint Energy retail gas utility rates. "What this ends up doing is passing on additional costs to the consumer ... in addition to additional costs that they will have to incur in, just, in, just, in dealing with this situation of debating and arguing and defending their, their expenses that need to be carried on in their updating their rates of the consumers."
One final clip, with a barely audible Miranda bidding the viewer adieu -- I'm assuming this counts as the blooper reel -- sends the viewer off, waiting in eager anticipation for Brown's next appearance. Will she choose Otilla's Bridal Shop? Memories Cabaret? Thunderbird Enterprises? Will the local business leader know who she is? Will Miranda resign before her next appearance? Tune in next week to find out!