Queen Sheila: Boosting Houston light rail at age six

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Rad Sallee’s Chronicle article on METRO, which Anne Linehan noted earlier, contains this interesting paraphrase of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee:

Sheila Jackson Lee

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said she organized the meeting at Texas Southern University with fellow Houston Democrat U.S. Rep. Al Green after Metro announced Monday that it wants to initially substitute train-like buses for light rail on four planned corridors.

The news caused an “upheaval” in minority neighborhoods, with “calls from our constituents and phones ringing off the hook,” she said.

Lee told Metro officials that she has been hearing promises about a rail system for Houston since she was 6 years old.

Tom Bazan emailed us because he thought that sounded a little odd.

While it’s not impossible that a six-year-old was thinking about light rail in Houston, one wonders just how often the topic came up among six-year olds running around the Jamaica area of Queens:

Friends and foes alike agree that Sheila Jackson Lee is unique in Houston’s African-American political realm. For starters, she was born in New York City. Unlike Washington, Leland and Jordan — all previous representatives from the 18th District — Lee did not grow up in the inner-city wards or pass through the academic halls of Texas Southern University. State representative Sylvester Turner shares Lee’s outsider status in the local black power structure, but relative to Lee, he’s an insider: He grew up in the north Houston community of Acres Homes and attended the University of Houston before heading to Harvard. Justice of the Peace Al Green, who grew up in New Orleans, is perhaps Houston’s only other high-profile black official to hail from outside the city.

Perhaps conscious of Houston’s preference for homegrown politicians, Lee plays down the fact that she was born in the Jamaica section of Queens, and that her grandparents on her father’s side are Jamaican immigrants. In fact, when she first ran for office, the candidate profile submitted to the Houston Chronicle listed her birthplace as Houston.

Even today, she offers biographical details grudgingly. She describes herself as “a very private person” and refuses to reveal what her parents did for a living or what high school she attended.

According to this biography, she was born in Queens and graduated from Jamaica (NY) High School. She and her husband moved to Houston in the 1970s. She was older than six.

Perhaps Jackson Lee was simply confused. It wouldn’t be the first time. One of her most famous instances of confusion is recounted in the biography linked above:

Jackson Lee’s penchant for misspeaking (called Sheila-isms in Houston political circles, similar to Bushisms) has also made her the object of ridicule from the political right, especially over a well publicized episode in which she asked NASA scientists if the Mars Pathfinder robot probe had photographed the location of the 1969 Moon Landing.

That’s our Queen Sheila.

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