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The G coOrce but not Narrow Pick up your FREE copy at over 200 locations in Austin & Houston. For further information call 512.476.0576 or 713.521.5822 POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE DON’T CRY FOR HENRY B. Last month San Antonio’s venerable and indefatigable congressman, Henry B. Gonzalez, fought off an effort by the Democratic House leadership to replace him as ranking minority member on the House Banking committee. Dem honchos, led by Dick Gephardt and Barney Frank, nominated New Yorker John LaFalce to replace Gonzalez, presumably because they wanted a younger member. But insiders were saying that the real reason for the change is that Gonzalez accepts no PAC money, and the Democrats are eager to get their hands on the contributions that would flow from banking sources with interest in legislation before the committee. The vote was apparently turned by Gonzalez’ speech before the House Democratic caucus, in which he recounted his uphill career, accused the leadership of ignoring his record, and asked, “How can I be silent in the face of such injustice?” Some members were said to be weeping in response to Gonzalez’ brief, defiant remarks, as he requested “one last term as ranking member, and I will not disappoint you.” He got it. WAGE WAR. Christmas for Houston workers may come again in January, when the city votes on a proposal to raise the minimum wage for employers in the city to $6.50 an hour. The measure made it onto the January 18 ballot after the Living Wage Campaign, a coalition of labor, student, church and advocacy groups, sent 250 petitionbearing volunteers to gather the necessary 18,913 valid signatures. Thanks in part to a signing spurt on election day, the campaign submitted 30,000 signatures to the city, which approved the addition to the ballot December 7. In the same election, voters will also decide on a measure to require a citywide vote on all proposed tax increasesa measure whose presence on the ballot could threaten the minimum wage initiative by attracting more conservative voters to the polls. But the larger threat to the wage hike comes directly from business groups, which, not surprisingly, have come out against the measure. Under the auspices of the “Save Jobs for Houston Committee,” they’ve been raising money from struggling small. businesseslike Kroger Company, Foley’s and Fiesta Mart, Inc. They’ve also hired Austin media consultant Bill Miller, who told the Houston Chronicle that a minimum of $500,000 would be spent in an attempt to defeat the measure. Contrast that to the Living Wage Campaign’s coffers, which contain about $10,000. According to organizer Jeff Ordower, the campaign will be going door-todoor and phone-banking between now and the election. “Unless we can raise some serious money,” he said, “we’re going to be relying on grassroots work.” FREEPORT DOUBLETAKE. Before he shamefacedly resigned last spring from the board of mining multinational FreeportMcMoRan, U.T. Chancellor Bill Cunningham urged Freeport critic and anthropolo gist Steven Feld to tour the Irian Jaya mine site to see Freeport’s benevolence first called Cunningham’s bluff, and reports the following: “In a cordial, series of exchanges, Freeport Jakarta encouraged me to ‘formally’ apply to them for an official mine tour, and I did. Their environmental V.P. responded that after reviewing the filesprovided by Freeport New Orleansof things I had written or said, that it would be ‘pointless’ to allow me to visit the site.” Adds Feld wryly: “White man speak with forked tongue.” TO THE TRENCHES. The Observer has received yet another appeal from a Texas neighborhood beleaguered by a Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission policy apparently designed to ignore the public interest in deference to corporate profit. According to Lubbock resident Kathryn Suchy of the community organization Neighbors United, the TNRCC is close to granting an air permit to a Lubbock manufacturer, O’Hair Shutters, Inc., allowing the company to operate a trench burner which would incinerate 14,000 tons per year of wood waste, including sawdust, wood chip blocks, and glue. Directly downwind is a residential neighborhood, and a nearby elementary school. The TNRCC currently estimates emissions from the facility at 188 tons per year, including tons of particulate matter and dangerous compounds. Neighbors United is raising money for a legal defense; a public hearing in Lubbock is planned for late January. \(Neighbors United, do Kathryn Suchy, 2605 N. CyPTA STRIKES BACK. Last year the cement kiln industry defeated an attempt by mem bers of the Texas Parents and Teachers As See “PTA,” page 28 32 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 20, 1996