first section, according to a 1988 Houston Business Journal study, will amount to at least $76 million and could rise to more than $100 million. Contributions from the private sponsors of the parkway will probably account for less than $5 million. And because of rising costs, the plan to build a six-lane divided highway has been abandoned in favor of a more modest fourlane road. Determining who made money, and how much, from the Grand Parkway and the Cinco Ranch is difficult. The sudden downturn in Houston’s economy soured many of the land deals along the parkway route, and those deals helped send several of the state’s ailing savings and loan institutions into insolvency. Where are the participants in the Grand Parkway scheme today? Walt Mischer, Jr., says his company was forced to abandon its interest in the Cinco Ranch, although he won’t reveal whether it lost the $70 million it made in reselling some of the property. Bob Lanier has left the Texas Highway Commission, and is now serving as chairman of Houston’s mass transit agency which is proposing to build new roads. Ed Emmett ran twice for the Texas Railroad Commission, and lost both times. Since his last defeat in 1988, Emmett has worked in Austin as a lobbyist for shipping interests. President Bush is now considering appointing him to a prestigious post on the Interstate Commerce Commission, which regulates the freight industry. Bob Mosbacher has, of course, moved on to greater things under the gaze of his friend, President Bush, having made an estimated $40 to $50 million off the sale of the Cinco Ranch. As for Virgil Knox, he is continuing to fight for repeal of the Texas Transportation Corporation Act. He is, he says, still determined to reform Texas politics and protect the interests of small taxpayers from big business. And he still considers himself a conservative Republican or, as he puts it, “a patriot with an old-fashioned set of values.” Like many Americans, he wants to believe George Bush’s promise of a higher ethical standard in the federal government. He listened when, last January 23, Bush talked about the importance of “avoiding conflicts of interest, bending over backwards to see that there’s not even a perception of conflict of interest.” A week later, he watched the Senate’s quick confirmation of Robert Mosbacher with mixed feelings. “I don’t want to embarrass George Bush. I like Bush. I voted for Bush. We should give him a chance,” Knox says, then pauses and frowns. “But I’m concerned about his selection of Robert Mosbacher for secretary of commerce. Because I just don’t know if he can resist the temptation to involve himself in self-dealing.” Unlike most Americans, Virgil Knox is all too familiar with the ethics of the Texas political economy. And he worries that the new standards supposedly being promulgated in Washington are no better than the old ones that Bush, Mosbacher, and their entourage first learned in Houston. POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE vi IF SAN ANTONIO Rep. Ciro Rodriguez succeeds in his tentative plan to run for state Senate 1990 he might change the political landscape of the Senate and shake up a San Antonio political machine. House talk has Rodriguez running against San Antonio Senator Frank Tejeda whose political machine was turned against Rodriguez in the 1988 primary. Tejeda, along with San Antonio Councilman Frank Wing and San Antonio Rep. Frank Madla, together known as the Panchos, have muddied up the waters of San Antonio politics for several years. \(Recently, they staged a hostile takeover of the Harlandale Senate might be an improvement. // HARRIS COUNTY Treasurer Nikki Van Hightower’s recent campaign against a county commissioners court vote to grant themselves and other elected county officials substantial raises has some speculating that she is gearing up for a race against Republican County Judge John Lindsay. Van Hightower, a first-term Democrat who has gone to court in an effort to reclaim authority that she claims was improperly shifted to the office of the county auditor, told Houston Chronicle political writer Nene Foxhall that taking on Lindsay in 1990 is “something on my mind as a possibility for the future.” Van Hightower added that she is more likely to run for state treasurer in 1990. // FRED HOFHEINZ’S announce ment that he will challenge Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire will shake up Houston politics between spring and the November 6 election date. Hofheinz was the first and probably the only progressive mayor to ever hold office in Houston when he defeated Chamber of Commerce incumbent Louie Welch in 1973. Welch left an undertaxed and underserved city in which a number of communities had no potable water or sewer services. Hofheinz increased taxes, constructed municipal infrastructure, and managed to stay in office for two terms. He ran by putting together a strong coalition of labor, minorities, and liberals. Organized labor is already itching to have a go at Whitmire and one firefighters union and a police union came out with Hofheinz endorsements almost before Hofheinz announced his intentions. Whitmire has traditionally been elected by progressive constituencies but more and more has served only the city’s business interests. Richard Shaw, who represents the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees at city hall in Houston said that AFSCME doesn’t make endorsements until summer. “But I’ll bet my next paycheck that Whitmire will not be endorsed,” Shaw said. According to Shaw, Whitmire has alienated organized labor with her consistent “anti-labor policy.” Hofheinz also is expected to draw strong support from the city’s black community. vi REPORTER James Pinkerton of the Austin American-Statesman might have delivered the formulaic Gringo Doctors/Grateful Peasant story that his editors can’t get enough of but readers had to persevere if they were to learn who picked up the tab for the doctors who traveled to Honduras. Twenty-three paragraphs into his Honduran dateline article that featured Centerville State Representative/physician Mike McKinney, Pinkerton served up a quote from former Houston banker Alag Danforth who directs the Little Rock, Arkansas-based World Gospel Outreach. Danforth implied that he favored the formation of right-wing death squads in Honduras to eliminate subversives. “If a country has been infiltrated by communists, they [government agents] should work to identify them and eliminate them. It’s as simple as that. . . Why take them to a trial, because the judicial system here will be just like a kangaroo court. It’s going to be one-sided against the terrorist, and they’re going to be sentenced to death anyway.” Austin lobbyist Brad Shields, who paid for McKinney’s trip to Honduras, said that he objected to World Gospel’s using the medical team to advance its agenda, according to the American-Statesman story. World Gospel Outreach operates seven clinics in Honduras and has been granted a tax-exempt status by Congress. // HOUSTON Rep. Weldon Betts died in Methodist Hospital in Houston after a long bout with cancer. Betts had served in the Legislature since 1986. He was a former employee of Southwestern Bell and had served as vice president of the Communications Workers of America. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15
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