in Houston, Texas

'Images are precious' and other tidbits from reams of Mayor Bill White's e-mails with downtown developer

files/2009/04/emailme-300x300.jpg
Monday, Apr 27, 2009, 08:26PM CST
By Rosanna Ruiz
Editor's note: Scroll to the end of this story to go directly to the e-mail documents between Mayor Bill White and a downtown developer obtained by Texas Watchdog through a public information request.


A review of Mayor Bill White's e-mails reveals the value he places on his image and on one of his pet projects, Discovery Green, a new downtown park.

In one message penned in March, White requested that photographs of the new downtown park be collected along with images of Lake Houston Park and improvements at Hermann Park.

"These visual images are precious and good marketing for both public support and private donations," White wrote in an e-mail to Parks and Recreation Director Joe Turner. "It is important as we look to the completion of this last term of my Administration that we have a visual record of some of the accomplishments of you and the Parks Board and our Park Conservancy, to challenge those who come after and set the bar."

White

The e-mails were released following a request made by Texas Watchdog three months ago under the Texas Public Information Act.

In January, Texas Watchdog requested White's correspondence about the park, including e-mail exchanges between White and Marvy Finger, the Houston developer behind the high-rise One Park Place, which sits across from the park. The mayor's 2008 calendar was also included in the request.

White declined to release the information and instead sought an attorney general's opinion.

Last week, the AG's office ruled that information not pertaining to the mayor's official role could be excluded along with certain third-party information.White released the e-mails Monday following a Texas Watchdog story about the mayor's refusal to release any records, even those he agreed were public, until the AG opined on the matter.

Ten of the 99 pages of e-mails are between Finger and White or his staff members.

They include communications about a letter White wrote on city letterhead to market the project. The mayor's involvement in the form of a letter in a private project was called unusual and, by some critics, inappropriate, the Houston Chronicle reported. Another opinion-maker took issue with what he saw as the mayor's marketing missteps, taking care to point out that Finger's daughter, Jill Jewett, previously worked for White's administration. The Chronicle today wrote about the documents provided as a result of the public records request, highlighting Finger's involvement in helping White write the letter.

Finger reminded White of his previous offer of help, citing the poor economy and decline in the apartment market.

He tells White in a Jan. 8, 2008, e-mail: "A letter from you indicating your belief in and support of One Park Place would be impressive and create an immediate impact."

In his response, a week later, White agrees to lend his name to the project.

"I do believe the success of this project is important for the continuing renewal of downtown Houston," White wrote Jan. 14.

Discovery Green's part in that renewal is apparent in a Oct. 25, 2007, e-mail in which White outlines the course the city should take against vagrants sleeping or panhandling in the park.

"I don't want to over-dramatize, but this has been a flash point in other cities, and if we are not clear and on top of this issue from the very beginning we could put at risk the manner in which Discovery Green is perceived," White wrote. "No citizen, whatever their background 'owns a bench' or a chair."

View the documents at the links below, and e-mail news@texaswatchdog.org or call us at 713-980-9777 if you see something that should be investigated.

Communications records, batch 1 of 5.

Communications records, batch 2 of 5.

Communications records, batch 3 of 5.

Communications records, batch 4 of 5.

Communications records, batch 5 of 5.

Homepage photo of an "E-mail me" heart candy by flickr user idogcow, used via a Creative Commons license.

Contact Rosanna Ruiz at rosanna@texaswatchdog.org or 713-980-9777.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog -- and join our new network on Ning at http://texaswatchdog.ning.com/! If you haven't already, fan our page on Facebook, join our group on MySpace, follow us on Twitter, fan us or friend us on Digg and send us links to stories you think we ought to see, join our network on de.licio.us to see what we're bookmarking, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader to get our updates delivered right to your desktop. We're also on NewsVine, tumblr, FriendFeed and YouTube.
Comments
michellensteven@yahoo.com
Sunday, 10/03/2010 - 05:21AM

i was there i know about the the mayor and the harris county jail

Video
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
Priorities, choices, and poor drug-war outcomes What a world we live in.Asset forfeiture by the government now takes more money from people than burglars and the number of...
Update:3 hours 6 min
Grits for Breakfast
A first look at Exoneration Review Commission recommendations See the new report from Texas' Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission, released this week. Let's review their main proposals:ELECTRONIC...
Update:4 hours 7 min
Grits for Breakfast
The ‘Where Are They Now?’ Award: The 2016 Official Ballot Unexpected comebacks and inglorious fade-outs abounded in your nominations for this next category in the 2016 Swamplot Awards for Houston...
Update:19 hours 20 sec
Swamplot
Alamo Drafthouse Says It’ll Open 4 More Houston Spots Now that Vintage Park Is Off Its Hands Alamo Drafthouse followed up this week’s confirmation that its Vintage Park theater is becoming a Star Cinema Grill by announcing...
Update:1 day 16 min
Swamplot
In Search of the Elusive Midtown Boundary, at the W. Gray and Webster Split Where exactly, these days, does Fourth Ward end and Midtown begin? That may be a little bit clearer before long (depending on how you...
Update:1 day 1 hour
Swamplot
Texas School Districts and Illusions of Local Control Public school districts have great power over families, but are not as locally accountable as they first appear. According to local news...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Big Jolly Politics
Houston Chronicle’s Chris Tomlinson is a bigot It’s sad that the only major newspaper in one of the largest cities in the country promotes bigotry. The Houston Chronicle’s...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Big Jolly Politics
Roundup: Unprepared, Uncounted, Untrained, and On the Hook Here are a few odds and ends which haven't made it into independent Grits posts but merit readers' attention.More Harris County bail...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Houston Sublease Glut Slightly Improves; B-Cycle’s Bayou City Boost Houston Office Market’s Sublease Space Glut Has Decreased Slightly for the First Time in 2 Years [Houston Chronicle] 4 Houston...
Update:1 day 4 hours
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Ayrshilled Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. We see in...
Update:1 day 4 hours
Swamplot
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 4 years 6 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 4 years 6 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 4 years 6 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 4 years 6 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 4 years 6 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 4 years 6 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 4 years 6 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 4 years 6 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
© 2016 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement