Council approves West Dallas, Bolsover land deals

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City Council officially approved Mayor White’s $6 million shakedown of the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation today:

The Houston City Council voted today to sell a 6.7-acre tract on West Dallas near Shepherd and Allen Parkway to the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation.

The unanimous vote capped a long and sometimes heated negotiation between city officials and the center, which had occupied the land since 1963 under a 99-year contract that the city recently declared invalid.


“It will be one of my great moments as a member of council, that we decided to do the right thing for the people that live there and to choose people over land,” Councilwoman Sue Lovell said.

Declaring a (previously valid) lease invalid in an effort to shake down the Center (successfully, as it turns out!) shouldn’t be a matter of pride, no matter how much the Mayor and his Council try to spin their shakedown after the fact.

Speaking of spin, Charles Kuffner posts this description of Mayor White’s comments before this item was considered:

During the discussion of the agenda item, before the vote was taken, Mayor White spoke somewhat cryptically about a piece of direct mail that went out in the early stages of the city’s negotiations with the Center that attacked the city’s motives and made some statements that the Mayor called untrue. You could tell that he was upset about this – he specifically said that if the senders of that mail had really wanted to do something constructive, they would have given money to the Center instead of spending it on that attack mailer – though he didn’t go into any detail about its origins. You could also tell that he hadn’t spoken of this before in public, because everyone I asked about it, including folks who were representing the Center, didn’t know anything about it.

Without seeing the alleged direct mail, I can’t really comment on it. However, we do know that sometimes our mayor can be thin-skinned when it comes to public criticism, and we can understand that he would have preferred his Boot The Mentally Retarded Shakedown discussion to have remained private, instead of becoming a matter of public debate (and criticism). Picking on retarded children publicly isn’t the best imagery for mayors with aspirations to higher political office, after all. It will be interesting to see if the Chronicle Editorial LiveJournalists (aka Mrs. White) supplement the Mayor’s spin later in the week!

In other land-transaction business today, Council approved the transfer of a section of Bolsover to a developer for $1.5 million:

This is not the first time the city has abandoned a road.

Not even in the Rice Village area.

But Houston Mayor Bill White says the way this one happened made him want to rethink the way the city does this in the future. “What we’ve done here is really try to make reasonable improvements.”

For two weeks the Mayor has been working on new procedures the city should follow when it sells public streets.

In this case the city got two appraisals for the property, which were nearly $1 million apart.

Mayor White says next time, the process shouldn’t be so haphazard.

If Mayor White (and the principal Councilmember who worked this deal, Anne Clutterbuck) truly thought the process was haphazard, they certainly could have slowed it down and brought more order to it. The fact is, there were some legitimate questions about the appraisal process and whether the city was getting proper value for the tract in question, and Mayor White didn’t see that as a reason to slow or modify the “haphazard” process considerably. Presumably, Mayor White and Councilmember Clutterbuck think they secured a good deal for the city, although that’s not completely clear at this point.

RELATED COVERAGE: KHOU-11, KTRK-13, Inside Central Houston.


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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX