Me and Charlie......State
Representative Charlie Howard understandably disagreed with
my assessment and complaints of his skills as a legislature
in last weekís column. I had to face him when I went to the
Fort Bend Chamber lunch the next day. I guess I knew he
would be there as a couple of other legislators were
speaking (Hegar and Janek). We managed to avoid each other,
although I heard that he ran around asking some mayors to
tell me what he had done for their cities in this session of
Charlie even brought a copy of the press
release announcing that he had received an award from the
Eagle Forum by my office.
That didnít impress me very much as I
think the Eagle Forum is some rich womenís (Phyllis Schlafly)
attempt to justify her opposition to her sonís lifestyle.
The Eagle Forum continues to fight against gender equality
and feminism and has expanded its reach to also focus on
homosexuality, education, abortion and the United Nations.
Her son, John, was outed by a now defunct magazine in 1992.
The award Howard received was given
because of the votes he cast during the last legislative
session. According to their press release, he voted against
tax increases and any expansion of gambling. He was also
recognized for his vote to require voter photo I.D. and for
Itís not so much that I am impressed with
the award, but I am impressed with the fact that Howard even
cares what I think.
So I decided to take another look at his
last legislative session. In the 80th (2007) session, Howard
authored 39 bills and jointed authored seven. Of the bills
where he was the single house author, a total of four were
passed. Where he joined with others to author a bill, four
more passed. Actually, for a legislator who claims he is not
in Austin to pass bills but to make sure bad bills arenít
passed, his record for the past legislative session isnít
bad. Several were legislative ďgivensĒ, i.e. about a
municipal utility district.
Charlie flatly denies that his
chairmanship of the local calendars committee was what
sparked the anarchy at the end of the session. According to
him, anarchy reigned for almost the whole session.
Charlie pointed out to me that he is 35th
on the seniority list which governs so much of what happens
in Austin. (Silly me, I thought how you stood with the
speaker governed what happens in Austin.)
In any event, Charlie has always voted
for Craddick so he is okay on that point also.
He told me that when he first ran for the
legislature, he thought he could accomplish what he wanted
to do in Austin in one or two sessions. ďI was naive,Ē he
now says. Thatís his excuse for overstaying his promise to
only serve two or three terms. Charlie now says he never
ďpromisedĒ to only serve two or three terms. I told him I
knew exactly where I was standing and what I had on when he
made that promise.
Thatís when he pointed out his seniority
and said it was a way to get things done for Fort Bend. And
he did bring up an interesting point. Charlie pointed out
that he could retire from the legislature right now and
receive about $44,000 annually in retirement rather than the
$7,000 annually he currently receives.
He also admitted if Janek quits, he might
run for his job. He said he didnít want to go to Washington;
he was too old to establish seniority there; and he didnít
want to run back and forth on an airplane every weekend;
plus raise a million dollars every two years.
I took a look at his campaign finance
report (filed electronically on the Texas Ethics Commission
web site. Check it out. Itís fun.) and found that Charlie
has $ 271,372.54 in his campaign account as of January,
2007, so he certainly has the bucks to either run for
Janekís job or donate to other candidates.
How do I feel about Charlie now? I feel a
little better, but I know heís not Fort Bendís ďgo toĒ guy
in the legislature, and after 14 years, he should be. I
still think he is more concerned about legislation having to
do with religion and home schooling than with what is needed
in Fort Bend. I donít think he ignores us, but I still think
he is focused on a narrow agenda that has nothing to do with
the majority of citizens in Fort Bend.
But for $7,000. what can we expect?
It is impossible to talk to someone in
the District Clerkís office....Glory put up so many
roadblocks to keep from having to deal with the public, and
they are still in place. I had hoped that Annie Elliott
would change some of that, but so far, itís been business as
When you call the main switchboard of the
county, a recorded message says to press 2 for the District
Clerkís office. That accomplished, then you have to listen
to two LOOOONG website addresses. Here is an example.
Blah blah, blah, visit our web site at
wwwdotcodotforthyphenbenddottxdotus. Go to the upper right
hand side and click on etc, etc.
Now this is repeated twice before you are
even offered any other options. The other day I begged Bo
Randall, who is the gatekeeper at the county switchboard, to
connect me to a real live person. Bo had to take care of
another call but came back twice and said she was trying.
Finally she connected me to an extension that a recorded
voice said to leave a message.
Well, ok, I thought, Iíll leave a message
and at least someone MAY eventaully call me back. Then
another recorded voice said, ďSorry this mailbox is not
accepting any messages at this time because it is full of
Couldnít you just reach through the
telephone and try to strangle someone?
I eventually found a place where I could
talk to a live person, but Iím not going to tell you because
it took some real sluthing and brilliant powers of deduction
and you might tie it up for me the next time I want to use
it. I asked the live person to tell Annie Elliott to call me
Guess what? She did, not too long after.
I complained to her about the telephone situation. She said
she was having to do a lot to change quite a few things. i
didnít remind her she had been in office since January
because she had been so nice to call me back.
But now I am.