By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
On a bill and a prayer
Texas legislators appear to be taking kindly to the complimentary subscription to the Dallas Observer they began receiving this year. Some say they actually are reading the articles, even the long ones.
One story causing a stir in Austin is "Holy Handouts" (January 21). In it, staff writer Thomas Korosec reported that Winning Strategies Inc., a marketing company in Canton whose primary mission is to run political campaigns for religious-right Republicans, is being subsidized by taxpayer money, thanks to a state law that allows communities to spend taxes on economic development projects. Some legislators--namely Democrats--want to change the law to prevent tax money from going to political organizations. Winning Strategies' chief benefactor is Dr. James Leininger of San Antonio (a.k.a. the Republican Party of Texas' sugar daddy).
Samantha Smoot, who works for the Texas Freedom Network, was the first witness to take Leininger's name in vain. That led to a rebuke by Rep. Ken Marchant of Coppell, who chairs the House Republican caucus that is indebted to Leininger.
"Are we going to bash Mr. Leininger the rest of the night?" Marchant bellowed. "Because I'm not going to sit here and listen to it."
When Alma Allen, a liberal member of the State Board of Education from Houston, next testified that Winning Strategies was behind attempts by religious extremists to overthrow the board, Democratic committee chairman Steve Wolens (a.k.a. Laura Miller's boytoy) interrupted, sensing that he was losing control. After Wolens conferred with a Democratic colleague, he allowed Allen to continue. Buzz thinks Wolens should have stuck a cork in her. So, apparently, did Marchant, who got up and left, as promised.
Does Counts' bill have a chance in hell of passing? One conservative Republican House member, who watched the hearing, whispered in Buzz's ear and snickered: "Somehow I don't think this bill will do too well in the Senate."
Robert Mong, the paper's president and general manager, apparently thinks so.
Sources at the Morning News tell Buzz that Mong killed a column that television critic Ed Bark wrote about the ramifications of the move. The column suggested that Rowlett's departure from the top-rated WFAA news program was not good for the city or Belo, which owns both WFAA and the Morning News.
Bark reportedly is steamed. Mong told Bark that his column was premature and noted that Bark had written two articles about Rowlett already--one announcing his departure, the other about the terms of the Channel 11 contract. (Rowlett will receive more than $1 million a year from KTVT. That's way, way, way more than Buzz will ever earn, but we much prefer the dignity of print journalism. If you don't believe us, just offer us a million bucks.)
Our sources say Bark asked Mong: What if Troy Aikman suddenly announced he was leaving the Cowboys, and the sports section wrote a news piece and a column on it and a few days later another columnist wrote a reflection piece? Would that be too much?
Mong never answered, so we'll answer for him. Yes, Ed, that would be too much--if Belo owned the Cowboys too.
Happy, shiny Buzz
Steady now. We're going to say something nice about somebody: Dallas park board member Ralph Isenberg seems like a decent sort.
OK, so that's not exactly a ringing endorsement. Compliments are a new territory for Buzz.
All this effusive praise comes because Isenberg went out of his way to help out a bunch of Little Leaguers, and now he is paying for it.
Isenberg says he was driving around inspecting the parks he represents--no fooling--when he noticed that the Oak Cliff Little League fields at Mountain Creek Lake Park needed some work. The fields are on land that TU Electric leases from the city, which in turn leases the fields to Oak Cliff Little League. As part of its contract, the league is responsible for maintenance.
With the season starting, Isenberg thought the city could help out and dress up the field. When he was told the city couldn't do that, Isenberg says he pitched a fit until, with the help of other park and city officials, a deal was made in which city workers would repair the fields and TU Electric would reimburse the city. Isenberg, whose business is property management, brought in his own crew to straighten up the concession stands.
Isenberg does a good deed. TU Electric does a good deed. A happy ending.
In the past week, Buzz has received three anonymous faxes--two addressed to the mayor and the city's fraud hotline--alleging that TU Electric won't pay for the work and that the deal was illegal. Some league supporters are worried about the charges and have asked City Auditor Robert Melton to look into it. (Melton says he can't comment, but a TU Electric spokesman says they'll be happy to pay, once they receive a bill.)