By Lynn Ashby
HOUSTON, WE’VE GOT A PROBLEM
The year of our Lord 2012 was not so heavenly. Still, we’re still here, aren’t we, unlike Robertson Stadium, which was torn down to make room for a new UH stadium. Ditto the old Prudential Life Building, later a part of M.D. Anderson, which was imploded to make room for something. So let’s take a look back at the year of our discontent.
If it sounds too good to be true: Financier R. Allen Stanford, who pocketed millions from Houstonians and others, received 110 years for fraud.
Black helicopters alert! Former City Councilman and right-wing radio talk show host Michael Berry (allegedly) came out of a gay nightclub and backed into the bouncer’s car, then drove off. HPD took the bouncer’s info – license plate, description of Berry, the club manager’s ID of Berry as Berry – and did…absolutely nothing. Media spotlighted the incident and somebody finally did something. What Berry did was fly off the handle, on the air, accusing somebody somewhere of being out to get him.
Party Hardy or Hearty: It has now come out that Port of Oakland Maritime Director James Kwon submitted an expense account after a 2008 party at the Treasures gentlemen’s club. For $4,500. It was approved by his superior.
Eight lives to go: A woman, identified as Audrey Miller, was charged with aggravated assault, officials said, after she allegedly shot her husband in their northwest Harris County home while the couple argued about the family cat.
In sports, 2012 was another year of horror, except for the Texans who had a good season if you can overlook their two disastrous prime time TV games in which they totally embarrassed an entire city. Oh, earlier, after the 2011 season when the Texans got into their first play-offs ever, they raised ticket prices by 8.5 percent.
What can we say about the Astros who finished the season with their worst record ever? Not in their 50-year-history did they go 55-107, a .340 average. That was also the worst in Major League Baseball. However, our boys of slumber were in a perfect game – losing 10 to 0 to the San Francisco Giants whose pitcher, Matt Cain, threw only the 22nd perfect game in MBL history.
Houston fans know a disaster when they see it – or don’t see it. On Sept. 25, the Astros drew 12,584 fans, the smallest in the 12-year history of the ballpark. Even their long-time announcer, Milo Hamilton, quit. And sidekick Jim Deshaies left to join the Chicago Cubs broadcasting crew. Maybe they didn’t like talking to a dwindling audience. On Sunday, Sept. 9, the Astros generated the lowest TV rating, as far as can be found, in the history of the team’s presence on TV. Playing opposite the Texans game with Miami, the Astros generated a 0.05 Nielsen rating. It was viewed by an average audience of 1,092 households among Houston’s 2.1 million households. Towards the end of the season the Chronicle didn’t even run the games’ story on the front page of the sports section.
Astros manager Brad Mills was fired after running up a record over almost two seasons of forgettable losses, but what can you do with a team whose departing owner, Drayton McLane, grabbed his several hundred millions from the team’s sale, got in his private jet and flew back to Temple.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist: Roger “the Rocket” Clemens pitched for the Sugar Land Skeeters. They won.
For comfort we turn to the Houston Rockets. Ooops. Despite a new coach and sports media gushing, the Rockets finished out of the playoffs – again, with a record of 34 wins and 32 losses. The team’s TV ratings also took a beating in the 2011-2012 season: an embarrassing 1.6. Their TV viewers have been in a steady decline since the 2007-2008 season’s rating of 3.2. Because of a food fight (dough), the Rockets can’t be seen on much of Houston’s TV screen. The good news in local pro sports is/are the Dynamo. Brian Ching came back to the team, which made it to finals.
Off the menu: The restaurant, Feast, closed. Apparently there was no audience for pickled lamb’s tongue, salad of Gulf ray or whole crispy pig’s head.
And the Casons go rolling along: On Dec. 13, 2012, neither Becca Cason Thrash’s name nor photo appeared in the Houston Chronicle.
Upper birth: Lauren Perkins gave birth to six babies — three and three, in terms of gender — who range from 1 pound, 10 ounces to 2 pounds, 15 ounces.
Token Opposition: U.S. Rep John Culberson once again fought to prevent Metro from receiving any federal funds for expansion. His constant blocking of our own federal dollars for Houston’s mass transit makes us wonder if Culberson is still working for Tom DeLay.
Behind the hedges: Rice University ranks 57th among the top 100 universities in the world, according to an annual survey conducted by Saudi Arabia-based Center for World University Rankings. The United States leads the way with the most top universities in the survey, with, uh, 57 campuses that made the list. OK, that puts Rice, uh, where?
Fighting City Hall: Out-going City Councilman Mike Sullivan said several times he would resign his seat on Jan. 1 to run for county assessor-collector. He waited one day, till Jan. 2, to resign, thus giving him an extra $5,000 annual pension. Councilwoman Helena Brown, who regularly votes alone against numerous expenditures and saves money by employing a mostly part-time staff, spent more than $11,000 on a trip to Asia, according to expense reports. She tried to get reimbursed, but failed. Then she sent out 13,000 refrigerator magnets to constituents with Brown’s photo, office phone number, email address, etc., and charged the city $2,989.96 for them. When the Texas Ethics Commission ruled the magnets were nothing but campaign swag, Brown reimbursed the city.
Out of control: City Controller Ron Green has run up more than $35,000 in expenses, on the taxpayers’ tab, for five-star restaurants, first-class air travel and assorted good-time perks while on out-of-town business trips — trips which his predecessors found unnecessary.
Judge not lest ye get caught: Jim Sharp, a state court of appeals justice in Houston, was publicly reprimanded for using his position to try to prevent a friend’s teen daughter, arrested on a shoplifting charge, from spending a night in jail, and for “abusive” behavior, including calling Brazoria County officials “backwoods hillbillies.”
The Spies of Texas: Feds arrested Houston businessman Alexander Fishenko and his accomplices for allegedly clandestinely shipping sensitive microelectronics to Russia’s military and intelligence services
Finally, our Hey Big Spender Dept.: “They spend money like drunk sailors out there.” – State Sen. John Whitmire on the Port of Houston, which built a $108 million terminal for cruise ships at Bayport. But no cruise ships. So the Port gave two cruise lines $6.7 million to come here.
Ashby looks forward to 2013 at firstname.lastname@example.org