January 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

As you will recall, the past two weeks we’ve been looking back at 2011 in Texas and Houston, so let’s hone it down to only our fair city. Records for heat and drought were smashed as “Houston’s Hot” became more than a city motto. 2011 was officially the hottest and driest year in Houston’s history. Wildfires swept across fields and forests in the suburbs, and Memorial Park reported a vast number of trees there are dead or dying.

Parents Magazine rated the 10 best children’s museums for 2011. We’re Number Won: The Children’s Museum of Houston! And Houston was crowned Fast City of the Year by Fast Company magazine.

Red Light District: Mayor Annise Parker gave the green light to the red traffic light cameras, then reversed, then reversed her reversal. The program still may cost the city millions for breaking the contract with the camera company. That’s OK. The city’s coffers are loaded.

Bumper-to-Bumper Crop: Houstonians waited in traffic 57 hours last year, according to the 2011 Urban Mobility Report. That’s equivalent to about one and a half vacation weeks.

City Council members Wanda Adams and Jolanda Jones said they didn’t need to follow Mayor Parker’s mandate and take furloughs without pay to reduce the city’s terrible financial condition. Adams and Jones saved themselves a $1,000 pay cut each by, they said, reducing other expenses. This begs the question: couldn’t they do both? Anyway, Jones was defeated for re-election in a runoff.

Be It Eversole Humble (and Spring): Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole, facing re-trial on federal corruption charges, resigned and pled guilty. The charge carried up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In exchange for the guilty plea and for Eversole’s resignation from office, prosecutors dropped charges of conspiracy, bribery and two counts of filing false income tax statements. He cannot run for office for 10 years, like we need him, and still faces sentencing.

The Casons Go Rolling Along: Socialite Becca Cason Thrash’s name appeared in the Chronicle at least 70 times in 2011, usually accompanied by a photo. Thrash was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in Paris for raising $5 mil for the Louvre.

We all know Houston lost out in getting a retired space shuttle for the Johnson Space Center, but we eventually discovered whom to blame: former Houstonian and NASA director Charles Bolden, who overruled an advisory panel which recommended Houston get one of the space shuttles. Wonder if he’ll retire here?

Radio Active: After KTRH dropped its veteran and professional news team and veered to the loony right, Houston was left (so to speak) without any decent radio news programs. Enter KROI (91.1) FM with some of the old hands from KTRH. Houston. Not all of us are afraid of black helicopters.

In sports, TSU head football coach Johnnie Cole led the Tigers to a 9-3 record, the best in eons, and the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship, then was fired. Something about an NCCA investigation into players who got great grades – in classes they never took. The NCAA stripped the school of 14.78 (huh?) athletic scholarships.

The Rockets didn’t make the playoffs, again. Actually, Houston’s team finished dead last in its division, 18 games out of first place. Yao Ming played five games in two years, then retired. Two of their best players, Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks, were traded, and head coach Rick Adelman was fired/quit. Meantime, the Astros finished with the worst record in Major League Baseball, 40games out of first place, and no help is in sight. None of the Lastros’ minor league teams finished with a winning record, and none made the playoffs.

The Ice of Texas: Houston’s minor league hockey team the Aeros, got to the finals and their coach was promoted to the majors, if anyone cares.

Moving on, at a press conference, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland probably saved the life of free-lance photographer Tony Morris by administering CPR until paramedics arrived a few minutes later. The chief declined to say if he had also administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Finger Pointing (Left Hand, Right Hand Div.): The DA’s office and the HFD each accused the other of letting Jessica Rene Tata flee to Nigeria. Tata was the child care owner who allegedly left her kids alone to go to the store, when a fire broke out at the house killing four infants.

A Bull Market: The Houston Livestock & Rodeo broke its own attendance record with nearly 2.2 million attendees – 5 percent higher than the 2010 record.

You are now free to move: The merger of Chicago-based United and Houston-based Continental Airlines caused us to lose 1,500 jobs to the Windy City.

The Houston Buffs are gone. No, not our minor league baseball team, but 11 of our small herd of buffalo were moved to a large north Texas ranch. Between the local drought and inbreeding, it was time to move.

Good Nabors Make, well, a lot: Nabors Industries’ retiring CEO Eugene Isenberg received a $100 million golden parachute. This was on top of his $176 million in compensation between 2006 and 2010 during which the company’s stock fell 38 percent. It’s dropped another 20 percent this year.

But our grand winner has got to be MTA chief George Grenias who was suspended for one week and forfeited a week’s pay for using his office computer to access adult sex sites.

Ashby looks backwards at ashby2@comcst.net

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