Annise Parker: Mayor, Referee

I’m the kind of person who can still feed badly for someone even if I find his professional practices abhorrent. And I felt badly for Michael Ainbinder last night at the community meeting. Nobody likes to step up in front of a hostile crowd.

On the other hand, I cope with my dislike for addressing hostile crowds by not developing property and bringing in Walmart as a tenant. Mr. Ainbinder might consider this option next time.

For your viewing something—pleasure, edification, or torture, take your pick—here are the opening moments of Michael Ainbinder’s speech last night. Yes, the lighting is low, and the sound, too, and I didn’t bring my tripod.

I did, however, capture Mayor Parker taking the room to task over their inability to listen respectfully.

I found it amusing, in a poke-in-the-eye-with-a-sharp-stick kind of way, that he made a point of explaining to us that technically, this development isn’t really in the Heights. Especially since when they are not remembering to call this the Koehler Street Development (their sneaky way of not calling it the Yale Street Development), they have given it this name for marketing purposes:

Dude, if you are going to call out your detractors for complaining about this development being the Heights, and getting all “I did not sleep with that woman” on them over the technical boundaries of the neighborhood, you wind up looking silly when you brand your development Washington Heights.

Why didn’t you call it West End on Washington? Because you know as well as we do that, for all practical purposes, this is in the Heights.

Nice, too, that you’ve figured out how cool it is that the people in the neighborhoods around your site love their neighborhood. We think it is cool that we could provide this learning experience for us before you give us the shaft with a 24-hour Walmart. Cool, cool, cool.

A few nights ago, I watched a rerun of a TV show in which a young grandson was going into exquisite detail describing to his grandmother the multiple characters who live under the sea with Spongebob Squarepants. Patrick is a starfish who lives on his street…there’s a squid…he plays clarinet…and…and…the way kids do.

The grandmother, looking more and more perturbed, finally says:

So, bottom line—he’s a sponge?!

(You can watch the clip here. It cracks me up every time.)

That’s what I felt like last night. Don’t show me the PowerPoint, don’t tell me you’ve been meeting with this group and that, don’t tell us you’ve learned so many cool things from meeting with all of these people who (surprise!) care about development in their neighborhood.

Bottom line:

  • City of Houston: We don’t have the right tools to exert much control over this at all. (Subtext: you people in the Heights can’t even agree on how to regulate your own homes, so I don’t know how to tell you that you’re going to have to figure out how to lobby for and pass commercial zoning regulations, but that’s what it is going to take.)
  • Ainbinder: We’re going to make money by developing this property, because that’s what we’re in business to do, and we can do it with you (and your 380) or without you.
  • Walmart: We’re the 8,000,000-pound gorilla in the room, so whatever.

We could have gotten through the meeting much faster, and no one would have had to spend all that time on PowerPoint presentations.

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2 Responses to Annise Parker: Mayor, Referee

  1. Bill Shirley says:

    Your summation was my suspicion and ultimately why I didn’t go to that meeting.

    On a parallel plane, i love KTRU and wish everyone well in their protestations, but think the sale will happen, it’s likely best for both parties, and KTRU can survive the loss.

  2. in the heights says:

    I was furious with the comment “It ‘s not technically in the Heights”.

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