Christmas came early in a big way for some Houston politicos, but a whole lot more of them should be hitting up the Houston Chronicle Goodfellows Editor for donations. Or appealing to Governor Rick Perry for a quickie appointment to any position that pays.
This has been the year when Texas Democratic officials found strange new vacation resorts -- Ardmore, Oklahoma, and Albuquerque -- in their efforts to beat the redistricting heat. Like grade schoolers at summer camp, they quickly shushed the brownnosers and snitches among them. In the case of the state rep Killer Ds, Houstonians Ron Wilson and Sylvester Turner curried favor with their GOP counterparts and drew anger from colleagues by staying behind in Austin.
The Albuquerque albatross turned out to be state Senator John Whitmire, who broke the legislative boycott to provide that elusive quorum for passing the redistricting plan. After flying the New Mexico coop on a Continental red-eye, Whitmire couldn't resist making a gag appearance at a downtown bar to surprise local Hispanic officials. He just couldn't figure out why they weren't amused.
At City Hall, mayor-elect Bill White, controller-elect Annise Parker and an incoming roster of councilmembers are counting their blessings. But a whole generation of young Republicans saw their careers come to a dead end, at least temporarily. Voters have put Orlando Sanchez, Gabriel Vasquez, Bruce Tatro and Bert Keller out on the street for 2004. If you drive by a pedestrian brandishing a sign reading "Politically homeless -- will play golf for food," be sure to act in the same penny-pinching, fiscally conservative spirit they exhibited for years on City Council.
As is the Insider tradition, here are a few choice holiday gifts for the political beauties and beasts:
Mayor-elect White: He'll need cash presents quick to come up with the $50 million or so to cover budget shortfalls. For that he can call on good buddy and former mayor Bob Lanier, who covered hot checks in office by utilizing a secret key to the Metropolitan Transit Authority treasury. And if Metro doesn't have any money left, it can always float a bond issue.
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Metro president Shirley DeLibero: She'll need a battalion of full-time guardian angels to prevent those fast and silent light rail trains from wiping out incompetent motorists as they weave over the tracks and through ungated crossings. But look on the bright side: Even if the train doesn't improve mobility, it's sure to raise average driver IQs through the natural selection process. Several dark humorists we know have already started a lottery to pick the date of the first car-train fatality on the Main Street line.
Congressman Chris Bell: Since his 25th district has been redrawn by Republicans to favor an African-American candidate, Bell can start campaigning early with our gift basket of a free perm job, a personal dance lesson from Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott and a Berlitz tape of conversational rap and hip-hop jargon. Yeh, Chris, you know you got to get with that.
State Rep Sylvester Turner: He gets an honorary "mayor for a day" proclamation, to make up for those stinging election losses in 1991 and 2003, and to perhaps dissuade him from ever trying it again. (Please, God!)
Councilman Mark Ellis: The leader of council's melting conservative bloc lost two fellow travelers when his brother-in-law Terry McConn was defeated by M.J. Khan in District F, and Ronald Green beat Ellis's lil' buddy Bert Keller. To level the playing field, Santa's bringing Mark a year's supply of Rohypnol, the date rape drug that can make any councilmember give you their vote anytime you demand it.