It's election season in West University Place, and in the race for city council, shit just got real.
In one corner, there's incumbent George Boehme, a sometime restaurateur, amateur Negro Leagues historian and daredevil tree surgeon.
In the other corner, there's challenger Jim Shields, a tuba-playing former Kellogg's executive.
Shields is now in hot water after accusing Boehme of being drunk while trimming a tree limb that had been impinging on a power line on Chronicle columnist Ken Hoffman's property. Hoffman wrote up the incident last month, and while he never mentioned Boehme being held fast in the grim clutches of John Barleycorn, you do have to question Boehme's grasp of basic science. Dude hauled a chain saw up a metal ladder and hacked through the tree limb and mistakenly severed Hoffman's power while he was at it.
A Boehme supporter tells Hair Balls that West U mayor Bob Kelly has it in for Boehme and is using Shields to bring about his downfall. "Tuba Guy is just a pawn," our source tells us, and then goes on to lambaste the mayor: "He hightailed it to his place in Wimberley when Ike was coming...great leadership." That little feat of lumberjack derring-do, coupled with an incident last year in which Boehme sold alcohol to a minor in a TABC sting at Edloe Street Deli and Cafe, spurred Shields to action. He decided to run for city council because, in his view, West University Place was not safe in the hands of people like Boehme, a guy with "a profound lack of common sense."
"We don't need people like that running our city," Shields told InstantNewsWestU. "He's not the guy I want to make decisions." And then he raised the stakes dramatically, saying that Boehme "had to be drunk" when he sliced through Hoffman's power line. (To be fair, Shields did not mention Boehme by name, but come on...)
Gads. You get the drift. Shields seems to be saying that if George Boehme is not stopped soon, placid West University will soon be adrift in Demon Rum and carelessly wielded power tools, transformed into a hellish mélange of Hogarth's Gin Lane and Jackyl's "The Lumberjack" jam.
Boehme is fighting back. "His comment was offensive and untrue," he tells Hair Balls via e-mail. What's more, it's been alleged publicly that Shields might have violated the Code of Fair Campaign Practices when he said that Boehme was bombed.
Kelly has denied that Shields is his puppet elsewhere. "I talked to Jim and I talked to many people about running," Kelly said. "I did not talk to Jim Shields about running against George Boehme." However, the mayor's lack of confidence in Boehme's "judgment" is a matter of public record. What's more, he has also pretty much co-signed all of Shields's most scurrilous remarks, up to and including the allegation of drunkenness.
Kelly and Boehme fired some nasty e-mails back and forth last week that were later leaked to the media. Boehme accused the mayor of fostering negative campaigning and threatened to commence playing hardball.
"My life is an open book," he wrote to Kelly. "If this guy stays in the race, his life will be an open book also."
Kelly denied creating the negative atmosphere and wrote that Boehme had been "very rude" to Shields. "[Y]ou kept saying over and over again that you were very popular, would get the most votes in the council race, and that his running would only knock off some other candidate," Kelly's reply continued. (With Shields's entry into the race, five candidates are competing for four slots.) "I would remind you that if Jim Shields wins a spot on council it will be because our citizens elected him. Your email below is also a very clear attempt to intimidate him from running from office."
Not so, Boehme retorted. While he encouraged all challengers, he wrote that he was concerned that "Mr. Shields is a pawn in your Machiavellian Mutt and Jeff routine."
In his reply, Kelly essentially claimed that Boehme was paranoid, that all of his concerns were "of his own making." He went on to say that Boehme's "open book" phrase was an attempt to scare Shields out of the race.
Eventually this whole mess was forwarded to Shields, who set aside his tuba long enough to compose this crafty response:
"I told George as clearly as I could that his actions involving the chain saw, ladder, and power line, and selling alcohol to minors were part of what inspired me to run. I told George that those actions alone speak for themselves and indicated to me that he has a profound lack of common sense and good judgment. You sensed that he was trying to intimidate me and I must admit that I was waiting for him to threaten me which he never did. He was bellicose but I suspected that he had been drinking and it was the alcohol speaking. I even asked George if he had been drinking and he said that he rarely drinks. Could have fooled me."
(Hair Balls must interject here: If Shields is trying to be the candidate of clear-eyed sobriety, he would do well to change his campaign picture. When we see pictures of pudgy, middle-aged, ruddy-faced guys holding tubas, huge steins of foam-topped bock and pilsner come forth to us unbidden.)
And now, back to the mudslinging: "Jim, your characterization of our conversation would, in my opinion, tend to make me think you are delusional and would not make a good city council member," Boehme replied in his own e-mailed response to Shields.
And there's still two months to go before election day!
Watch this space for further developments.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.