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August 17th, 2006:

And the One True Write-In Candidate Is…

Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

Republican precinct chairmen selected Dr. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, a Houston city councilwoman, tonight as the write-in candidate to back in place of former House Majority leader Tom DeLay on the November ballot.

The Texas Republican Party decided it should rally behind one write-in candidate to give that person financial and organizational support.

“I’m honored to have received this support,” Sekula-Gibbs said.

Tina Benkiser, the state GOP party chairwoman, said Sekula-Gibbs was selected by a clear majority of the precinct chairmen who attended a gathering in Pearland. She said she did not have a breakdown on the vote. About 85 of the 150 precinct chairmen invited attended the closed-door meeting at a church to hear from potential write-in candidates.

A “clear majority” of the 85 precinct chairs who bothered to show up. As that could mean something like one-third of all precinct chairs, you can call me less than overwhelmed by this.

Before you ask, yes, You Know Who was there:

DeLay spoke to the group about his future and the direction of the district, those who attended the more than two-hour meeting said.

Did he utter the words “down the crapper” in regard to either of those topics? Enquiring minds and all that.

[Libertarian candidate Bob] Smither passed out literature outside the church.

“The only way to save this seat for conservative values is to vote for Bob Smither,” he said, predicting that a write-in candidate for the Republican Party would not be successful.

I’ll say again, it’s not clear to me that all three known write-ins combined will outpoll Smither. I have to admit, though, that this tidbit from Chris Elam is making me sit up and whistle.

It has been promised that the NRCC will donate $4 million dollars to supporting a consensus write-in, and more will come from state party funds.

Four million bucks? For a write-in? In a year where basically no Democratic seat nationwide is considered seriously endangered? Talk about betting the mortgage on a longshot. If this is really true (and with all due respect, I’m skeptical), I have to wonder who did the cost/benefit analysis on this puppy.

Muse has more, and I expect Fort Bend Now will have the best writeup in the morning. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Here’s Fort Bend Now. Some juicy bits:

DeLay made an appearance, entering and exiting without reporters’ notice. Two people who attended the closed meeting said he took no part in the selection process and did not speak on behalf of any candidate. Both said he was asked by another attendee if he would go to Wallace and request that Wallace end his write-in bid. Both said DeLay agreed to do so.

Also, a man identified as a member of Wallace’s campaign was asked the same thing during the meeting. According to sources, he said “I will tell him what happened at the meeting tonight.”

[…]

At Thursday night’s meeting, DeLay blamed the Texas Democrats for the fact the GOP has no official candidate for a congressional seat it has held for almost 22 years, according to attendees. DeLay also apologized for the discomfort events of the past few months have caused to the Republican Party.

Before the meeting ended, while waiting outside the church, Smither and some of his supporters became upset after being told by someone in the meeting, via cell phone, that DeLay called Smither “a Lampson plant.” Added Smither: “I am telling you that is a vicious lie.”

Smither attempted to speak to Benkiser about DeLay’s alleged remarks, while she was conducting the press conference. “It is a lie!” he shouted as reporters peppered Benkiser and Sekula-Gibbs with questions.

[…]

Meanwhile, Lampson campaign manager Mike Malaise said, the “only interesting thing we learned from this meeting was that Tom DeLay may not be on the ballot, but he’s not in Virginia either. He attended this meeting to personally enforce his will. I don’t know how any candidate can be proud of serving as Tom DeLay’s handpicked candidate.”

Lots to chew on there. I’ll bet DeLay’s repetition of the Smither-as-Lampson-plant claim, especially after Smither stated he’d caucus with the Republicans, will be a nice little blow to the base reunification efforts. I’ll bet Smither’s tone changes from here on out, since playing nice with the Republican powers that be got him nowhere.

I seriously doubt that Wallace will heed DeLay’s call to drop out (assuming DeLay actually makes it; I see no reason to start believing anything he says now). The idea that some featherweight Houstonian is DeLay’s choice to replace him after all this time has got to be a bitter pill.

Oh, and here’s Kevin stirring the pot further by suggesting that Sekula Gibbs resign from City Council to campaign full time. Let me give that idea my heartiest endorsement.

Finally, as a public service, let me help anyone who’s not already acquainted with Doctor Somethingorother by guiding you to this Houston Press story abiut her first term on City Council. Be sure to get a glimpse of the cover as well. You’re welcome.

UPDATE: Juanita says those NRCC millions are predicated on Wallace dropping out. I agree with her – I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

Bettencourt says he’s not a candidate

I have received the following statement from Harris County Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Allen Blakemore
Thursday, August 17, 2006
713-526-3399

Bettencourt Statement on CD-22

HOUSTON – In advance of tonight’s Congressional District 22 meeting called by Republican State Party Chairman Tina Benkeiser, Paul Bettencourt issued the following statement:

“I want to make clear that I am neither a write-in candidate nor a prospective one despite the well-intentioned draft movement within the Party.”

Color me completely unsurprised. I always thought Bettencourt’s statements about this effort after his name first surfaced in the last week or so were along the lines of “thanks, but no thanks”. The only variable was when he’d officially decline. At least now the Benkiser Gang can go into tonight’s secret meeting knowing what the score is.

I doubt he will be taken seriously by the Benkiser Gang, but now that a prominent Republican elected official has endorsed the idea of supporting Bob Smither, I wonder how much discussion that will get tonight. I’ve not seen any evidence to suggest that Tina Benkiser will let this get anywhere, but we’re way past the point in this circus where I can say with any confidence that such a thing is too strange to contemplate. This whole thing is too strange to happen, and yet here we are. Let’s just say we’ll know more later.

Finally, Paul Burka swats down the charges made by Gary Polland about why the Republicans lost in TDP v. Benkiser, which are now being amplified by Bobby Eberle, the man who gave the world Jeff Gannon. Check it out.

Gillen goes off on his own

Things continue to unravel for the Republicans in their attempt to impose unity on CD22. Fort Bend GOP Chair Gary Gillen has officially opted out of tonight’s meeting of the Benkiser Gang and is urging his fellow Fort Benders to join him.

Fort Bend County Chairman Gary Gillen wrote a letter to prospective candidates in the county urging them not to attend the meeting, saying it excluded grass-roots Republicans. But his counterpart in Harris County, Jared Woodfill, said the gathering was the best way to unify the party behind a single Republican candidate.

I think Gillen’s rebellion pretty much proves Woodfill wrong. Well, I suppose this could be the least divisive way to go. It just obviously won’t work to unite the party.

In his letter, Gillen complained that the meeting is closed to all but the precinct chairs and other designated party and elected officials.

“Holding a closed meeting with very few participants, ostensibly to determine what we Republicans should do, makes a mockery of our party, the democratic process and should be avoided at all cost,” wrote Gillen.

Woodfill said, however, that the meeting among party leaders is the only practical way to assess how GOP faithful feel about the candidates.

“We are talking about grass-roots. Precinct chairs are part of the heart and soul of our grass-roots base,” he said. “Given the situation we are in I think it makes a lot of sense to have a meeting with those folks and talk about how to proceed.”

Gillen is asking candidates not to participate in the meeting, which he says will deny rank-and-file party members the chance to participate in the political process.

“In Fort Bend alone, over 20,000 people participate in our primary elections; yet, just over 60 people from my county have been invited to attend this secret closed-door meeting. The same is true in the other three counties, as well,” he said.

Gillen’s letter is here (PDF). Note that in the penultimate paragraph, he urges “anyone who wants to run” to “pay the fee and get your running shoes on”. That’s some kind of unity there. Thanks to Juanita for the link.

Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace, who already has filed as a write-in candidate and hopes to secure the GOP blessing, said he has reservations about attending the meeting because of a scheduling conflict and also because the meeting is closed to most Republicans.

I presume the scheduling conflict is with the meeting that Gillen has called for all FBGOP members. The Muse has the email Gillen sent out.

Fort Bend Now goes into this story in more detail, and expands on the fact that Gillen has endorsed Wallace in this race even though he campaigned to be FBGOP Chair with a pledge to not endorse one Republican over another unless one candidate was deemed “unqualified” by the state party. So much for that. The article also notes the emergence of a second write-in candidate, Don Richardson (about whom I know nothing), which Juanita noticed yesterday. And Chris Elam analyzes the Gillen letter and the email to FBGOPers.

Finally, Charlie Cook has weighed in on the updated status of CD22.

RATINGS CHANGE: TX-22 Open (DeLay) moves from Toss-Up to Lean D. Winning a write-in campaign is hard enough, but squabbling among Republicans in the district means that there may not be a consensus candidate for the national and state party to rally around. While this district retains a good Republican advantage – and there’s always room to be surprised in politics – the benefit of the doubt now goes to Democrat Nick Lampson.

I still think that’s too wishy-washy, and I’m still waiting for any of these guys to say something about GOP support for Bob Smither, but at least he has Lampson as the favorite and he acknowledges the chaos left in DeLay’s wake. That’s progress.

Q&A with Richard Garcia

Continuing once again with my series of Q&As with local candidates, I present to you a few questions with Richard Garcia, Democratic candidate for Harris County Treasurer.

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

I am Richard Garcia, Richard Garcia, Richard Garcia (I typically say it three times so people don’t forget). I am running for Harris County Treasurer.

I am 51 and a father of Katie 20 and Andy 16.

I live in Spring, TX and have been working since I was 8 years old.

2. What exactly does the County Treasurer do?

“The Treasurer is chief custodian of county funds and receives all monies belonging to the county from whatever source. The Treasurer keeps and accounts for the funds in designated depositories and disburses the funds as Commissioner’s Court may require or direct, not inconsistent with constituted law. The Treasurer also serves the Flood Control District and the Port of Houston Authority.” – Harris County Annual Budget

It does not do the typical treasury functions. It does not do forecasting, budgeting, compliance audits, financial analysis, insurance risk assessment, investments, etc. Years ago, much of the office’s typical treasury functions were removed and basically the office writes the checks for the county, port and flood control district.

The State Treasurer’s office was eliminated by Martha Whitehead when she ran in 1994 to abolish the office. The 31st of August 2006 will be 10 years since the 158-year-old State agency ceded its duties.

Most smaller counties still need the Treasurer’s office and I fully and wholeheartly support each county deciding what is best for their county and their taxpayers. In Harris County we can abolish the office. The current staff will continue to be employed by the county. Harris County is fortunate to have an excellent first assistant who is currently running the treasurer’s office since the Honourable Jack Cato’s death May 22, 2006.

3. What are your professional qualifications for this job?

During undergrad studies I worked in the Trust Department of American National Bank.

I received my undergraduate degree with a major in Finance and minor in accounting and economics in May 1977. I started in the financial industry in June 1977. I worked for Prudential for 25 years. Presently, I am a businessman working in the insurance industry as an analyst for insurance claims.

I have taught school children economics through Junior Achievement – including once a week serving as the instructor of High School Economics in three different Harris County High Schools.

I have earned an MBA degree.

4. It is your intent to ask the Texas Legislature to pass a bill that would eliminate the job of Harris County Treasurer if you win. Why do you want to do this?

First, to successfully abolish the office, a candidate has to run with the intent of abolishing the office. We have such a candidate. The next steps were up to the Commissioner’s court. They conducted a study into the feasibility of abolishing the office, the impact the decision would make and vote to proceed to abolish the office. The study was completed and the change involved would be minimal. The transition would be seamless and the office effectiveness would not be impaired.

I have been given much credit for coming forward with a serious proposal to abolish the office, but it was proposed many years ago by my State Senator, Jon S. Lindsay. When asked by the Houston Chronicle during the primary screening four years ago, I informed the editorial board that I would support the voters’ decision to abolish the office. By presenting the option to the voters up front that I am running to abolish the office, we are presenting the voters with a clear choice to control future government spending.

I have spoken with various State Representatives and State Senators and have spoken in front of the Harris County Commissioner’s court in support of abolishing the office. I am proud to say that the two Republican Commissioners, Steve Radack and Jerry Eversole joined the two Democratic Commissioners (Sylvia R. Garcia and El Franco Lee) in voting to abolish the office.

We will need a constitutional amendment to complete the process of abolishing the office and Senator Mario Gallegos will be working in the Senate to attempt to have the issue brought to the voters.

5. How much would Harris County save per year if the Treasurer’s office were abolished?

First, the County Treasurer’s position presently pays $96,000.00. With the cost of living change, the position will pay $99,108.00.

In addition, there will be a vacancy in the office in January and I will not fill that position. The duties and functions can be absorbed by others within the office and the salary saved would be slightly over $44,500. A study performed by the commissioner’s court would support the non-replacement stance.

Both positions would have a “burden” added to the actual cost – this is an accounting term for the added cost above the salary. Depending on the organization the additional percentage can be substantial. Using a salary effective in September plus a 33% factor for burden the annual savings to the taxpayers in salary alone would be $190,998.64. Typically, elected officials get re-elected in the 90% range. With four year terms it is not unlikely that the next elected County Treasurer could be in the position for three or more terms.

Without factoring in adjustments for economic activities; twelve years times $190,998.64 salary savings would be $2,291,983.68 saving to the County Taxpayers.

More important than the salary is my ability to analyze how operations are currently performing and how to implement changes to make operations run better, cheaper, and faster for the taxpayer.

When the insurance industry was in a crisis due to mold claims, Prudential requested my assistance in the claims department to handle the magnitude of these claims. The process had become long in time frame, slow in repair and very expensive. People were moved out of their homes and into hotels frequently exceeding the limits available to them for additional living expense. Reviewing matters, I found that the engineers were producing a 1″ plus report for the homeowner and insurance company. For the homeowner to determine if they had a claim, where are the problems areas and how to mitigate the situation – the majority of the paperwork contained in the report was not necessary. These engineering reports were costing $6,000-7,000. Using business common sense and conferring with the engineers and policy holders, we developed an easy to understand and cost effective report costing $750.00. A report that was understood by the customer, the insurance carrier, insurance adjuster and the contractor. I was also able to reduce the price for lab work from $500 per sample sets to $250 for a total cost of $1,000 or an expense saving of $5,000 to $6,000 per claim.

By having a timely, accurate and understandable report we were also able to drastically reduce the cost of claims and the time the homeowners were inconvenienced in being away from their home. Our corporate office used the claims methods on my file as case studies and best practices for training.

It was a win-win. Repairs were preformed quickly, and the time frame involved was reduced – all at a more reasonable cost of doing business. I will bring this cost effectiveness to the office.

6. Which other county offices would pick up the duties of the County Treasurer if it were abolished?

The Treasurer’s office would join the Financial Services Office. Financial Services Office is under the Management Services (Budget Office).

7. How many other Texas counties have gotten rid of their Treasurer’s offices? Have any counties tried and failed to do this? Have any re-established the office once it was abolished?

First, there are many counties which do need to have a County Treasurer – Harris County is not one of them.

The actual number of counties which have eliminated the office is very small. This is largely due to a possible poison pill implying that should a candidate run to abolish an office, he can not get paid. The law punishes a civic-minded candidate.

Various Treasurers from other counties spoke in front of the Harris County Commissioner’s court requesting that the commissioner to not vote to abolish the office. At the same meeting, I spoke to the commissioner’s court and informed them that I was in support of abolishing the office. I am proud to say that the commissioner’s court voted in favor of the taxpayers 4-1 to abolish the office.

In the approximately 7 1/2 months between Mr. Jack Cato’s death and the taking of office by the next Treasurer, the decision by the Commissioner’s Court not to name a replacement saved the taxpayers $60,000+. To some it may not seem like much, but it could purchase books for the library. As my brother says, “save your pennies and the dollars will add up”.

8. The State of Texas abolished its Treasurer’s office after Democrat Martha Whitehead was elected in 1994 on a platform to do exactly that. What can Harris County learn from the state’s experience?

Martha Whitehead was appointed by then Governor, Ann Richards. Ms. Whitehead ran for the Office of Treasurer in 1994 to dissolve the office. The Legislature and the people of Texas concurred and November 7, 1995 a Constitutional amendment was passed by the voters. On August 31, 1996, the 158-year-old agency transferred its functions to the Comptroller’s Office.

Harris County Commissioners have the foresight to see the vision in abolishing the office. Working together they have voted to move forward on this matter.

If elected I will follow through and work to abolish the office

9. What is the argument against abolishing the Treasurer’s office? Is there any risk in doing so?

Most of the concerns from people are: “Do we need it?” The simple answer is “no”. We have a capable captain at the helm and all I am asking is that she continues steering the ship in the direction necessary to handle the county’s treasury functions.

10. What else do we need to know about you and your campaign?

Probably the number one comment that I get is: “Why would you run to get rid of the job you won?”

Because it is the right thing to do. It’s in the best interest of the taxpayers. We have an excellent First Assistant who has worked under three Harris County Treasurers and is currently doing a great job in completing Mr. Jack Cato’s term.

I would also point out that I have the educational, professional and work and personal ethics to perform the job as Harris County Treasurer and come November 7th the taxpayers of Harris County select the person to lead them in reducing the cost county government.

Thank you, Richard Garcia. One thing I want to make clear here is that the first opportunity to abolish the office of Harris County Treasurer would be September or November of 2007, whenever the first statewide vote can be held after the next regular Legislative session. What would actually get abolished is the elected position of Harris County Treasurer. The people who are performing the functions of the Treasurer’s office would still be doing that, they’d just be doing it under the auspices of the Financial Services Office. It’s like when a company merges two departments and then gets rid of one of the department managers. Richard’s the one pushing for the merger since his job isn’t needed.

One last thing to note is that Orlando Sanchez, who is telling people he wants to use this position as a platform for espousing things like immigration reform, has a track record of travelling on the public dime. Given Sanchez’s proclivities, the savings Richard estimates we can get (as seen in his ad video) may be on the conservative side.

Here are my other interviews with Harris County candidates:

Leora T. KahnInterview
Chuck SilvermanInterview
Bill Connolly – Interview
James Goodwille PierreInterview

It’s unity time!

Today’s the day for the big closed-door Benkiser Gang meeting in Pearland to determine who (if anyone) will be the One True Write-In candidate.

Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace officially filed as a write-in candidate Friday. And Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs said she will do the same if she gets the backing of the state party.

Benkiser said Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt has expressed an interest, as has former state GOP executive committee member Tim Turner.

“We hope we can all unify behind one candidate because of what is at stake, not only in this race, but this election,” Benkiser said. “Candidates need to set aside personal agendas and do what is best for the Republican family.”

[…]

Some Republicans perceived Wallace’s filing as a pre-emptive move to discourage other candidates and force the party’s hand.

“I firmly believe everyone in this race will get behind one candidate,” said Turner, touting his conservative roots in the district and his party work. “It would be a great disappointment if Mayor Wallace chooses to put himself ahead of the Republicans in this district. That would be an unfortunate event and won’t be forgotten.”

Prepare to be disappointed, Tim.

With dwindling hopes of keeping Tom DeLay’s longtime House seat from falling to a Democrat in November, Texas Republicans on Tuesday called an urgent meeting for Thursday to exercise their only option: agreeing on a write-in candidate.

But that slender prospect – no such write-in campaign has succeeded in the state – seemed to suffer a blow when a leading candidate facing party opposition disparaged the meeting, saying “that may have worked in Moscow,” and vowed to keep running even if it meant two Republican write-in candidates.

“I’m in the race and I’m in it to win,” said the candidate, David G. Wallace, the part-time mayor of this booming Houston suburb named for its onetime Imperial sugar factory. He said he might be too busy campaigning to attend the meeting.

Is there a more beautiful sound than that of a Republican comparing other Republicans to communists? I can’t think of one offhand.

“Lampson’s going to win, that’s all there is to that,” said Bill Miller, an Austin lobbyist and political consultant close to the Republicans.

The Republicans are not officially conceding that, citing some rare successful write-in campaigns in several other states. “My hope is that we can unify behind one candidate,” said Tina J. Benkiser, the Texas Republican chairwoman, who called for the Thursday meeting of 150 precinct leaders and other party officials. But, she said, “this is going to be a challenge at best.”

Mr. Wallace said he saw Ms. Benkiser as no friend of his campaign, but she insisted she was neutral. “I don’t have a dog in this race,” she said.

But Gary Gillen does, which is another reason why I said that the Republicans here are not as organized as the national prognosticators seem to think. (I note that Chuck Todd still thinks there are seven races that he thinks are more likely to flip than this one. Amazing.) I admit, that’s a surprise to learn. I wouldn’t have thought that as recently as six months ago. The evidence is clear, though. The only question is what it will cost them besides this seat.

Speaking of cost:

[Republican consultant Ted] Delisi, whose wife, Deirdre, is deputy chief of staff for Governor Perry, said a strong write-in effort could make Mr. Lampson spend more of his war chest, last accounted at close to $3 million, and leave him with less to devote to re-election.

I can just about guarantee that Lampson was going to spend most of his money anyway. He knows this race is about 2008 as much as they know it. I can also just about guarantee that Lampson will have little trouble building his warchest back up.

As this article also spoke about the weird four-way Governor’s race, I want to mention a thought that was suggested to me recently. One person who may not be too happy with any effort by either the Republican Party of Texas or the NRCC to dump money on CD22 in an effort to get Republicans to step out of their usual straight-ticket pattern and support the One True Write-In is Rick Perry. He of all people will want to push the “vote straight R” mantra, as it’s the easiest way by which he can keep portions of his base from wandering away to Strayhorn or Kinky. It’s a little funny in that I think the kind of Republican voter who’d be receptive to a support-the-write-in message is precisely the kind of voter who’d be sticking with Perry regardless of whether they push the straight-R button or not. I expect Perry won’t want to take any chances as far as that goes. I wonder if that might throw a wrench into any plans to spending money on this race, or if it might cause some more discord if such plans follow through over Perry’s objections.

Finally, Greg takes Gary Polland to task for his analysis of what went wrong in the matter of TDP versus Benkiser. I just want to add that if you scroll up on Polland’s page, you see this:

It is too bad Tom was taken down so hard and essentially “forced” to walk away from an often brilliant career. The final straw pulling his name from the ballot came this past week. Tom should have been allowed to retire on his own terms, he deserved it.

I cannot fathom how anyone could look at the events of the past months and not conclude that Tom DeLay’s own actions were the single biggest cause for the spot the Republicans now find themselves in. I just cannot.

Oh, and to end this all on a positive note, while the Republicans are searching for the elusive best case scenario, Nick Lampson continues to work the district and rack up endorsements. You know, the things that good candidates do.

John Carter: I am the debate decider!

Nobody debates John Carter unless John Carter says they debate John Carter.

Carter has said repeatedly he won’t get into full “political mode” until October, after Congress adjourns.

However, in a previous interview this summer, Carter went a step further, saying that Harrell or any other challenger aren’t guaranteed the chance to debate him, despite their candidate status.

“People earn the right to debate me,” Carter said in the interview. “I will determine how and not them.”

Asked what would qualify someone for a debate, Carter said “credibility.”

In a call to his office Wednesday, Carter’s spokeswoman Amy Ellsworth said his comments were still an accurate reflection of his views.

Harrell said that was ridiculous.

“This is pretty basic. It doesn’t have to do with my rights or Carter’s rights. The voters have an absolute right to know where we stand,” Harrell said. “I think it is bizarre that we’re talking in terms of whether a candidate has a right to debate. We are running for office and we owe it to the people.”

See, this is brilliant. Nobody gets to debate Carter unless he decides they’re “credible”. And the more credible an opponent is – and I’m sure Carter realizes that Mary Beth Harrell is as credible as they come – the less incentive he has to declare him or her as such. Heads he wins, tails you lose. It’s good to be the king, isn’t it?

Carter, not surprisingly, is a serial debate ducker. From a Harrell campaign email:

Carter has refused to participate in every other candidates forum held in the District. He’s already refused to attend the ones held by LULAC, AARP and even the Rotary Clubs.

In their invitation to the candidates, KNCT made it clear that they will not produce the program if either Harrell or her opponent refuses to participate. Harrell has already accepted the forum invitation.

I can understand the TV station not wanting to go on with the show if it’s a one-person debate, but I do hope the other organizations go ahead with their fora regardless. They have no ratings demands to worry about, and their mission is education. The attendees can draw their own conclusions if Carter chooses to skip out on them.

Anyway. Carter, you’re a wussy. Eye on WIlliamson has more.

Start counting the days for the Alabama Bookstop

Via Houstonist, this blurb from the Wall Street Journal is nothing but bad news for Houston preservationists.

David Deason, vice president for development at Barnes & Noble, said the New York-based company intends to close the Bookstop in favor of a “state of the art” facility. But Mr. Deason said the fate of the landmarks is in the hands of Weingarten.

You can translate that as “We just want to make sure that it’s Weingarten who gets blamed when the wrecking ball pays a visit. Please don’t boycott our shiny new location-to-be in the River Oaks Shopping Center!”

At this point, barring quick passage of a stronger preservation law by City Council, I think it’s going to take a buyer who specifically wants to keep the Alabama Theater in its present condition. I’m more pessimistic about the River Oaks Theater now than I was before. Bleah.