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BEV'S BURNER
Some's Hot, Some's Not 

by B.K. Carter
This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time and phone number.

Sugar Land race getting picky, picky, picky ..... This week I experienced a "Hobson's Choice" in writing about the Sugar Land City Council race.

I had earlier told myself and several other people that I was going to stay out of this race because I knew everybody running, liked them all, and just decided the voters didn't need any help from me.

However, a couple of issues have surfaced that got my dander up. First, Russell Jones, a local attorney who is running for city council, filed a suit against his opponent, Bill Tallas, for having newspaper bags printed that left off the word "for." It seems that the Texas Election Code requires that when one is running for office, one has to say, "Vote Silly Politician for Dogcatcher," or "Vote for Silly Politician for Dogcatcher.

This was part of the code designed to give incumbents the edge because their political literature can leave out the "for." The conventional wisdom (?) is that not having a "for" implies that the candidate is already the officeholder. What nonsense!

When I got word about the lawsuit, I called Russell Jones, whom I've known for years and who served very admirably on the Missouri City Council years ago. I told (shouted) at him," That's exactly what we need in Sugar Land -- another nit picking writ twit!

Jones said he contacted Tallas about the bags the week before and Tallas refused to do anything about it. So in order to require his opponent to obey the letter of the law, Jones filed suit.

Now this race was Russell Jones' to lose. He had more campaign money and a higher profile than Tallas. But bringing the lawsuit energized Tallas' volunteers who stayed up all night sticking "fors" on 5,000 bags, cussing Russell Jones and vowing to work against him big time.

By the time they got to court Wednesday, Tallas' volunteers had stuck on the "fors," and Jones realized he had made a strategic error with the resulting uproar. His attorney told the judge the problem had already been resolved and asked the judge to ask both parties to let the issue die.

Hey, son, Russell Jones let the genie out of the bottle, and guess what? It wasn't Barbara Eden. Jones' action gave Tallas the only issue that has surfaced in this campaign so far.

It has caused all the other candidates with printed bags to have to spend hours sticking "for" on their bags also which means they're probably mad at Jones also.

So here I am, completely disillusioned with my friend Russell Jones for requiring candidates to obey the letter of the silly law when several school board members bring to my attention that another Sugar Land City Council candidate went around the law to enroll his children in schools other than where they are supposed to go.

Michael Austin is another good friend of mine with whom I do a lot of printing business (he's good) and who contributes constantly to the community. However, several school board members pointed out that the Austins go around the law in enrolling their children in schools that are not in the zone where they live.

I called the Austins and Dianna Austin said they had residences in the zone where their children were enrolled and had never made a secret of it. She said that her sometimes extensive business travel necessitated her children going to the schools near her after-school child care. "I am a mother and I made that decision (about the schools) totally on my own. Mike might make our business decisions, but I've always made the children's educational decisions." Mrs. Austin said she thought where the children attended school was a personal matter and wouldn't make any difference in a city council race. She said there were some other personal issues involved in the attendance zone situation that still upset her even now.

So here is my dilemma. Iím fussing at Russell Jones for requiring his opponent to obey the letter of the law, no matter how silly. And I'm raising my eyebrows because the Austins perhaps skirted the law, no matter how silly, in sending their children to the schools of their choice.

You are wondering what a "Hobson's Choice" is and you know I'm going to tell you. Hobson's Choice is a choice without an alternative; the thing offered or nothing.

It is said to have had its origin in the name of one Thomas Hobson (ca. 1544-1631), at Cambridge, England, who kept a livery stable and required every customer to take either the horse nearest the stable door or none at all.

So if you require that the Austins obey the letter of the law, you must also require that Bill Tallas do the same.

You know, a political campaign is often likened to a horse race with words and analogies taken from that world. Maybe Hobson's Choice and its original meaning are well-suited to this essay.


B. K. Carter is publisher of the Fort Bend Star. You can e-mail her at bkcstar@earthlink.net


 
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   Last Update:  September 17, 2003