John and Bitsy Dic k Ree ves when Richie Nelson showed up to register for kindergarten with a hairdo much like that of House Speaker Billy Clayton, the local powers summoned all their wisdom and declared Richie unfit to mix with other five-year-olds. “You can’t have a school without morals,” was the way school board member James Brooks explained it to the Midland ReporterTelegram. Richie’s mom, Bonnie Nelson, told the Observer, “I just can’t believe that American schools can do that. I feel strange and hurt. The whole thing is unreasonable.” Rather than let the government run their lives, the Nelsons have refused to put the scissors to Richie’s hair. Instead, they’re rallying local support and checking with various officials about a redress of their gtievance. Meanwhile, they’re spending a lot of time and gas money driving Richie and his sister to school . in Stanton, 20 miles away. Greenwood school superintendent Mel Williams didn’t want to talk about Richie Nelson: “I am not at liberty to make any comment,” he told the Observer. See the school board. Aren’t they silly? Midland: “no thanks” Recalcitrance in the pursuit of principle is no viceat least that’s the way the Midland city council sees it. By a 4-2 vote, the council has rejected a million-dollar federal urban construction grant because the package included $66,000 for rent subsidies. “The basic principle of rent subsidy by the government is wrong,” Mayor Ernest Angelo Jr. said. “The short-term effect for those receiving it may appear to be good, but the long-term effect on them, on their neighbors, and on the community will be bad,” he explained. Not that all federal subsidies are bad; it’s just those for poor people that won’t do. The grant application submitted by Midland to the Department of Housing and Urban Development included requests for $310,000 to pave and curb streets, $220,000 for housing rehabilitation, $149,000 for a center for the elderly, and $114,000 for park improvements. HUD required that Midland accept and spend the rental assistance money before the other projects could be funded. No deal, said Angelo and a council majority. “It is true that we are or should be our brother’s keeper. However, it is not true that the federal, state or city government should be our brother’s keeper,” the Republican mayor said, adding that it would have been politically easier for him to take the money. Ambiance of politics Thousands of the state’s great, 7 near-great and totally obscure stood for several hours in Austin’s municipal auditorium Sept. 15, in what appeared to be a massive conga line awaiting the downbeat. Those in the welldressed queue eventually made their way through thousands of earlier arrivals who were chomping all available edibles yammering away at one another. This was not your ordinary mindless social gathering. It was the “Good Job, John Hill” appreciation affair for the state’s head lawyer; the purpose was to relieve each appreciator of 50 bucks and get Hill’s gubernatorial campaign launched with the night’s take. It worked. About 6,000 partisans contributed a total of $300,000, boosting the attorney general’s kitty to about $500,000 for his 1978 contest with Dolph Briscoe. Not a bad start. Some pretty impressive people were munching the canapes, downing the cocktails, trying to make themselves heard over the off-key jazz combo, and shaking hands with John and Bitsy. What manner of campaign draws Allan Shivers, J. R. Parten, Darrell Royal, Rep. Mickey Leland, Liz Carpenter and Ralph Yarborough? Maybe a winning campaign, certainly a serious one. Mercifully, the speaking was held to a minimum, with Austin book publisher John Jenkins employing every tried and true cliche in the book to introduce the main man. Then Hill drove ’em wild when he put his thumb and index finger together and declared: “We’re this far from making a final decision on what we should do.” Of course, the decision to run against Briscoe was made long ago, but Hill delayed his official announcement a few more days so he could make it to a capitol press conference and get as much coverage as possible when it came to letting Texans in on what has been common knowledge for months. It’s sometimes called the art of politics. Much of the rest of what Hill said was drowned out by loud humanoid rumblings from the wet bar, where a horde of thirsty pols was heavy into the bourbon and water. And then there was the diverting sight of Corpus Christi Mayor Jason Luby and Austin state Rep. Gonzalo Barrientos being elbowed aside at the munchy tables by several ravenous reporters. Finally, while Hill stood for some photographs with a bunch of Chinese-American businessmen, a curious bystander asked no one in particular, “You don’t suppose they’re Koreans?” This issue’s Political Intelligence was assembled and written with the help of Eric Hartman, Debi Pomeroy, Teresa Acosta, David Guarino, David Brinn, Paul Sweeney, Mark Richardson, Tim Mahoney and Jim Steinberg. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15 st.
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