Suzy Roberts, a retired nurse, won a low-key race this year for a spot on the Pearland school board. She beat an incumbent, but did little more than some block-walking and appearances at candidate forums. Nothing controversial came up in the campaign.
Christ, have things changed.
Board members, district officials and the people who follow school politics have learned very quickly that Roberts is pretty much a live wire who loves stirring up the shit. Especially when it comes to religious issues.
One of her first acts as a board member was to write an e-mail to board president Tom Allen complaining that — among other things — the board opened its meetings with Jesus-specific prayers.
Pearland's growing population of Indians and other Asians might be offended, she said.
Somehow that e-mail leaked, and Roberts got hit with, she says, 800 e-mails from Pearland churchgoers accusing her of all kinds of evilness.
"I would like one sound example of prayer negatively affecting anyone," wrote one Pearlander, who apparently had never heard the phrase "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition."
Roberts replied to the e-mails in a reasonably low-key way, but then again all her e-mails include the quote "If you want to live where religion trumps law, move to Iran. That is what they do best."
Things came to a head at a board meeting October 9. Allen resigned his seat (for unrelated reasons) but went down blazing, if a transcript from Roberts is to be believed (the school district posts audio of all its meetings online, but the October 9 tape is oddly missing.)
"I believe that you are being challenged to compromise," he told the board, "to elevate tolerance above morality and the values of this community. I want to encourage this board to be intolerant; to not put political correctness and playing nice in public above courage and conviction."
Inspiring words, indeed. And from a pastor!
Or, as Roberts calls such churchmen, "pastords."
"I define this as 'fundamentalist pastors who will say and do anything to keep that tithe rolling in,'" she says.
Let's just say that something like "pastord" is not anything we'd expect to hear from a school-board member in Pearland.
Unfortunately for the easily offended, there doesn't seem to be any mechanism that would allow citizens to demand a recall election in PISD. Voters are stuck with Roberts until 2010.
"I smoke and I cuss and I think gay people are just fine...and I don't go to church and my husband's a really radical scientist at Rice trying to unleash the secrets of the universe because he doesn't believe in creationism," Roberts says. "I honestly thought I was unelectable; I just ran to make them nervous."
Fun for most observers, but we're betting certain segments of Pearland are tweaking their candidate-screening and endorsing methods. Feverishly.
Hide and Seek
We don't generally endorse candidates or political movements here at the Houston Press, but we are breaking from this long-time tradition for an urgent plea: Vote No on Prop 10!!
It is quite possibly news to many of you that there is a statewide election November 6, a referendum on 16 amendments to the much-amended-already Texas Constitution. (The election is the same day as the local vote than you are also probably not paying any attention to, concerning city council seats and huge bond proposals for the Houston Independent School District and the Port of Houston.)
What is Proposition 10? It is merely a sinister attempt to endanger all Texans by outlawing — in EVERY county — the position of "Inspector of Hides and Animals."
If it passes, you — and your children — will face a bleak future of uninspected hides. And animals.
As you might imagine, there is a huge outcry from hide-and-animal inspectors all across Texas. Or there would be, if any such people existed.
"I think we did a quick e-mail survey when the subject came up, asking county judges if there were any [inspectors], and they all said no," says Elna Christopher, spokeswoman for the Texas Association of Counties. "So if there is one, it's in a small county way out there somewhere."
The push to eliminate the positions comes from State Rep. Joe Heflin. Tragically, we traded phone calls with Heflin and couldn't reach him before deadline, so we do not know why he feels it's safe to have uninspected hides in the great state of Texas.
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But we're guessing he just got some huge payoff from the influential HidePAC, best known by its slogan "Keep Your Eyes Off Our Hides!"
Voters, do your duty.
The Single Most Important Book Ever
Joel Osteen, the guy who turned an NBA arena into a church and a theology-lite shtick into a multimillion-dollar empire, is back on the best-seller charts. His second book, Become a Better You, is so important that the Houston Chronicle ran a five-day series of excerpts. Here's an analysis.