Memo: To Members of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority

November 1, 2001 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Memo: To Members of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority
From: Your Chairman


As you may know, Harris County Judge Robert Eckels (hereafter called “the party of the first part”) is suggesting that members (hereafter called “the party of the second part”) of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority (hereafter called “the party”) wrap up its business and close down. This must not happen. As we say in our private suite at Enron Field, Houston without a sports authority is like beef tenderloin without a slightly chilled Merlot.

Eckels points out that the authority was created specifically to build sports stadiums and arenas. Such projects were urgently needed. Some of our stadiums and arenas were getting to be half as old as our hospitals and elementary schools. What?s more, owners such as Drayton McLane Jr., Les Alexander and Bob McNair could hardly be expected to build their own facilities. I mean, they didn?t get rich by being stupid, now did they?

And as we all know, those taxes we collect to pay for these new facilities are not being paid by us but by visitors. Houston now has the highest (17 percent) hotel-motel occupancy tax in the entire nation. We?re No. 1! It?s a great point to make when trying to attract conventions.

Speaking of money, we work for free, yet our sacrifices go unheralded. All the liberal press is reporting is about our perks, our ever-growing $3 million a year budget, our staff and the fact that we, along with City Council and Commissioners Court, have the biggest suite at Enron Field and get free food. By one estimate, if we stuck to the deluxe menu of shrimp, tomatoes Napoleon, cheese, beef tenderloin, pork loin, chocolate marquis, etc., the food alone would run $150,000 a year. We plan the same situation at the football/rodeo stadium and the basketball/concerts arena. But those suites are for business purposes; I think you have met most of my family.

All of this is being challenged by Eckels, but not by Mayor Lee Brown, who never met a bureaucracy he didn?t like. So it is clear that we must take some action in order to stay on the gravy train. I suggest we expand our role to include other sports-related projects, such as ethnic museums, Little League fields and parks. Oh, sure, Eckels probably will point out that no other museum in town needed our oversight to get built, that Little League has done fine without us and that the city and county have been building parks for more than a century. Eckels sure can be picky.

If these plans for our continued existence prove impractical, there are other projects to consider. We could help oversee construction of light rail on the theory that if one board of managers is good, two are better. How has Houston gotten along without a sports authority to oversee the dog pound? (Although I don?t think we need a private suite there.) We are the natural organizers of weddings, science fairs and an academy to train rodeo clowns. This brings us to school construction, but Houstonians don?t seem to care much about education. You?ll know their priorities have changed when you see press boxes in the biology labs.

And we have not exhausted the sports scene. The Texas Medical Center could use a little economic stimulus, and the UT-Health Science Center needs a football team and a stadium for the Fightin? Physicians. The Astrodome needs to be re-built, and Enron Field is getting to look a little seedy, don?t you think?

The measure that created the sports authority states that any additional duties to be taken on must be specifically approved by the voters, which means we?ve got it made in the retractable shade. The voters! Those are the same bozos that keep griping about their school taxes but give us $1.5 billion to play with. As for us hanging around too long, I stayed on as head of the MTA for 19 months after my term expired. A final plus is that once any sort of government bureaucracy is created, you can?t kill that sucker even if you drive a stake through its heart.

So that?s our plan. Remember, mum?s the word, and notice the peeling paint at Enron Field. ih

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