by gabrielle cosgriff
Ben Baldwin, in his capacity as a
private citizen and news director
of KTRH Radio, and Gebe Martinez, as a private citizen, took the City
of Houston to court June 14. They were
challenging the legality of a 90-minute
closed city council session, arguing that it
violated the state's open meetings act.
Martinez, who was a KTRH reporter
at the time, explained how it came about.
"I had been hearing all week that the
council planned to meet in executive
session to discuss a districting plan
(see story p. 9) but it didn't really hit
me until that morning as I listened to
"I felt very strongly this was not
allowed under the open meetings law. I
discussed it with our morning news
editor Velma Cato and with station
manager Hal Kemp. Velma talked it over
with Ben. Velma also talked to 'legal
experts' in this field, and they encouraged
Martinez feels they did get away with
it this time. State District Judge Wyatt
Heard refused to bar the council from
holding future executive sessions on
"It's a Catch-22 situation," said Baldwin. "The judge told us 'my court will
always be open to you to come back if
you have proof.'
"Well, when we recorded statements
from the mayor and city council, saying
they were going to come up with a plan
in a secret meeting and then present it to
the people, we went back to the judge.
"He said he wouldn't see us without
the city attorney, and the city attorney
wasn't about to go with us voluntarily.
That's the Catch-22."
"It was ironic," said Martinez. "Just
about the time the judge was making his
ruling, the council was coming out of its
session, and the mayor admitted discussing several plans. He even said he was
When John Wayne died, Bob Hope said "We've
lost a jumbo in this business," as if bemoaning
the demise of a Big Mac.
us to fight it. Also, we received support
from the local chapter of the ACLU,
which offered to file the lawsuit if we
"It's the principle," said Baldwin.
"I don't think city council is deliberately violating the law. I just don't think the
law has been well enough defined. That's
why we went to court.
"The subject they were discussing in
closed session is of vital importance to
the citizens of Houston and should not be
discussed in closed session. This was
exactly what the open meetings law was
intended to accomplish."
Martinez said she was very concerned
about the matter because she was a reporter in San Antonio when they went
through the same thing with the Justice
Department. "The circumstances were
almost identical," she said. "San Antonio
was being sued (by the Mexican-American
Legal Defense and Education Fund) and
was ordered to come up with a districting plan because recent annexations had
diluted the voting strength of Mexican-
"When they first received the order,
they went into executive session to decide if they should go to court or revise
the charter. But once that was decided,
the whole process was open. As a matter
of fact, instead of the council members
drawing up the districts themselves, they
appointed a citizens charter revision committee to come up with a plan.
"San Antonio knew they couldn't get
away with something like this if they
tried," said Martinez, "the people would
have jumped on them immediately.
Clearly, Houston's council felt they
could try to get away with whatever
disappointed his own plan, 5-5-1, did not
receive as much support as he had
"At our first bite at the apple, we did
not have a sympathetic forum," said Don
Johnson, attorney for the plaintiffs. "The
case is pending. We had a preliminary
hearing and we have not yet set the
matter for another hearing."
On July 19, the Justice Department
ruled that only the 9-5 plan submitted by
the city could be considered by voters on
"This doesn't affect the thrust of the
legal action," said Johnson. "The issue is
still the secrecy of the executive session.
We have no intentions of abandoning the
case at this time."
"I hope not," said Martinez. "It will
never be too late to open up city council
as long as they keep only their own political interests in mind."
When John Wayne died (see p. 5)
the eulogies came thick and fast.
He was a hero, a role-model, the
personification of American values.
One of the most interesting, if crass,
observations came from Bob Hope.
"We've lost a big one, a jumbo in this business," said Hope, as if bemoaning the demise of a Big Mac.
In a way, it was the most honest remark of all. Wayne was a commodity, a
quintessential example of the American
way of selling. When we buy toothpaste,
we buy sex-appeal. When we buy a Big
Mac, we buy the wholesome family image.
When we buy John Wayne, we buy the
Whether he realized it or not, Hope
said a mouthful.
Equality in hurricanes," commented Jan Carson, KTRK TV
anchor, as Bob, the first male-
named hurricane, came ashore in Louisiana recently.
When hurricanes were exclusively
female, not only were they described as
"she," they were often regarded as risque,
sexy ladies by the media.
Remember Anita plying her trade in
the Gulf . . . Celia wasn Y as big as some
of her older sisters . . . Belle's temper . . .
teased and threatened . . . and Blanche,
One of these tempestuous females
even flirted with the Florida coastline.
So it was interesting that after the
initial "him-icane" jokes about Bob,
the media very quickly got down to
describing the hurricane as "it," a part
of the overall weather scene. Even the relentlessly jolly John Coleman (ABC's
Good Morning America) who talks to
a frog on the air, played it straight with
There was still a kind of wistfulness,
though, that Bob did not develop into a
more destructive force. "Only a weak
sister," lamented an ABC TV newscaster, and CBS TV reported that people were "grateful that Bob was more
merciful" than other hurricanes. "It's
a disgrace to the men of the world,"
commented a KPRC Radio reporter.
". . .a puny shadow of . . . more violent storms" wrote the Houston Post.
The problem seemed to be that there
were no cliches to fall back on for male-
named hurricanes. The well-worn phrases
for the "ladies of the sea" just don't
apply to hurricanes named Bob.
The morning paper headline (July 12)
simply read "Hurricane Bob loses steam
over land."; the evening paper was almost
an identical twin, "Hurricane loses punch
as it howls in over land."
In a column (July 11) that apparently
seeks to be humorous, Doggett unleashes
a confused, vicious attack on what appear
to be threats to his masculinity.
He is "insulted and offended by this
sell-out labeling of storms . . . Whoever
insisted that a proportionate number of
tropical storms must now sprout whiskers
certainly couldn't be from around here
. . . The storm, for better or worse, is a
Doggett is convinced that all things
marine are ipso facto feminine. "The sea
is a 'she' " he proclaims. So a hurricane named Bob has got to be a little
"As if protesting his own injustice,"
Doggett continues, "Young Robert
kicked up . . . Bob, the first manchild
of the National Hurricane Center, marks
the first time ever that seafarers must
wait to receive a gentleman caller. Unless
you frequent certain Montrose environs,
that doesn't have quite the same ring."
So there we have it. The ultimate in
stereotyping. All hurricanes are female,
therefore Bob's sexual identity is suspect.
And if homosexuality is raging, can
communism be far behind? Doggett
comes through on that one, too.
"The tempests of legend, the Carlas
and Celias, will now be tempered with a
few Freds and Franks. Come to think of
it, 'Fidel' would be a fairly appropriate
name, but I doubt seriously that the lightweight compromisers who started this
whole thing would have enough nerve
to pull a really classic one out of the
'windbag.' At any rate, when Bob comes
twirling his skirts ashore he will have an
effect on the upper Texas coast."
Let's hope that Doggett recovers from
his tropical depression in time to give a
more intelligent report on the next hurricane.
After Wojtyla Disco Dance, the next logical step
is a disco mass—Sunday Morning Fever, maybe.
Imagine the headlines if the same
sexual connotations given female-named
hurricanes had been applied to Bob.
Maybe "Bob can't get it up," or "Bob
peters out," or "Impotent Bob slinks
Intriguing as the possibilities are, we
have to feel relieved that at least every
other hurricane will now be called "it,"
if Bob is any indication. Who knows,
reporters may even get into the habit
of describing hurricanes seriously as
dangerous natural forces that threaten
lives and property.
With the possible exception, that is,
of Joe Doggett, outdoors writer for the
Houston Chronicle. (His column tells
you where to find all the furry, fishy,
feathered things you can legally kill
He's the groove, he's the man, the
new pope in the Vatican." It's
not great poetry, but the new
disco single on Pope John Paul II is the
hottest item on the Italian scene this
summer. Called Wojtyla Disco Dance,
the record is the latest example of papal
His poems and a play have been published, books have been written about
him and movies are being produced. The
next logical step is a disco mass—Sunday
Morning Fever, maybe.
But the media's current infatuation
with the head of the Catholic Church
should not obscure his unrelenting
attacks on women's rights and freedoms.
During his recent visit to Poland, the