Archive for April 17, 2012
Texas Governor Rick Perry needs a better group of friends. His pal Ted Nugent is making headlines for a rancid tirade directed at President Obama. Nugent says he stands by his provocative rantagainst the Obama administration at last weekend’s National Rifle Association convention, despite mounting pressure from Democrats and an investigation by the Secret Service. “I spoke at the NRA and I will stand by my speech. It was 100 percent positive,” Nugent told the Dana Loesch radio showtoday. “It’s about we the people taking back our American dream from the corrupt monsters in the federal government under this administration and the communist czars he’s appointed.”
Nugent told a crowd of convention-goers that “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” “If you can’t go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil, America-hating administration, I don’t even know what you’re made of,” he said at the NRA. Democrats launched a social media and web video campaigndemanding that Nugent retract his statements and Mitt Romney, whom Nugent has endorsed and stumped for, deliver a public rebuke. Romney has not commented.
The Secret Service says it is aware of Nugent’s comments and conducting “the appropriate follow-up” given the potentially threatening nature of the remarks. “See, I’m a black Jew at a Nazi-Klan rally, and there are some power-abusing corrupt monsters in our federal government that despise me because I have the audacity to speak the truth to identify the violations of our government, particularly Eric Holder and the president and Tim Geithner, ad nauseum,” Nugent told Loesch. “I have never in my life threatened anyone’s life. I’m incapable of threatening anyone’s life. Because I’m about positive change, my entire speech, all my articles,” he later added.
Nugent did not temper his rhetoric for Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whom he called “varmints.” “Varmints are sometimes clever, but they are really easy to outmaneuver,” he said. “If you just listen to Wasserman Schultz, just watch the lady talk, listen to her words, examine her voting record. Listen to Nancy Pelosi, this sub-human scoundrel… these government monsters are so out of control. I’m using my First Amendment. “The job of we the people is to spotlight cockroaches, and come November we’re going to stomp them at the voting booth,” he said.
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul did not directly respond to Nugent when asked for a reaction to his comments, but she said “divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from.” “Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil,” Saul added. Nugent told Loesch that he’s stating publicly what Mitt Romney is really thinking but can’t say. “Mitt Romney knows what I’m saying is true. He puts it in the words for him, I put in the words for me,” he said. The Romney campaign offered no further comment when asked about Nugent’s statement on the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
HOUSTON, Texas — (DMN) – Police say they have found the three-day-old baby that was kidnapped from a doctor’s office north of Houston, Texas this afternoon. The Montgomery County District Attorney did not say where newborn baby boy Keegan Schuchardt was found, only that he was located shortly after 8pm and they are now trying to reunite him with his father. Police have detained one person but no charges have been filed. It is still unclear whether that person is the woman investigators suspect in the shooting death of Schuchardt’s mother, who’s been identified as 28-year-old Kala Marie Golden.
The shooting and kidnapping happened Tuesday afternoon outside a Montgomery County pediatric clinic off Borough Park and Sawdust in the Woodlands area north of Houston. Investigators say the suspect was parked beside Golden’s truck and an argument erupted between them. The woman opened fire on Golden, shooting her at least six times. “The child was being put into the suspect vehicle and that’s when the mother tried to get into the car. The car sped away, knocking the lady to the ground,” said Lt. Dan Norris with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
The entire incident happened at least in earshot of people. “She was laying on the ground. She wasn’t moving for nothing,” said witness Joshua Jesson. “But then I saw a blue Lexus drive off in that direction.” Investigators say Golden later died at Hermann Memorial Hospital in The Woodlands. An Amber Alert was issued for Schuchardt shortly after his kidnapping. The suspect is described as a thin black woman in her late 20s or early 30s. She is described as having gold hair and was wearing a gray sweatshirt and blue jeans. The car is a light blue or sea green four-door Lexus sedan. There was another passenger inside the car but no description was available. Authorities say they still don’t have a motive for the shooting because they were focused on finding the boy first.
HOUSTON, Texas — (DMN) – A mother was shot and killed and her newborn baby kidnapped outside a pediatric clinic in the Woodlands area north of Houston this afternoon. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, at about 2:40pm a mother was shot multiple times in the parking lot of a pediatrician’s office at Borough Park and Sawdust. Authorities say the victim later died at Hermann Memorial Hospital in The Woodlands.
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputies say that a woman got out of an ice-blue, four-door Lexus and shot 28-year-old Kala Marie Golden multiple times. She then fled toward Interstate 45 from Rayford Road. Witnesses reported that a man was also involved. Witnesses say the thin black suspect was wearing a gray sweatshirt and blue jeans and had gold hair. The baby, Keegan Golden, was wearing a one-piece green and white outfit with “Handsome” on the front. The outfit snaps between the legs. The woman took the infant’s carrier, but did not take the base of the carrier. Anyone with information about Keegan or the suspect is asked to call the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office at 936-760-5876.
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — (DMN/STAR) – At 11:20 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 6, 2010, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police cruiser driven by Officer David Bisard plowed into a group of four riders on three motorcycles stopped at a red light. One rider was killed, and two others critically injured. A blood test indicated Bisard was drunk and he was initially charged with seven DUI-related felonies. But those chargers were later dropped because the blood test had been mishandled and no other evidence supported the DUI charge.
About the victims:
Indianapolis resident Eric Wells, 30, (left) was fatally injured when the police cruiser driven by Bisard struck his motorcycle from behind, hurling him forward against other vehicles stopped at the light. Wells worked at the U.S. Defense Finance center in Lawrence, as did Mary Mills, 47, and Kurt Weekly, 44, both of Indianapolis, and George Burt, 52, Fishers. The four friends were on their way to lunch when the accident occurred.
Mills and Weekly, who had been on the same motorcycle, were both critically injured. Burt was on his own bike next to the others, but was not hit. None of the riders was wearing a helmet.
Did the motorcyclists follow correct procedures in the accident?
An IMPD report of the accident characterized the motorcyclists as “failing” to move, but traffic safety experts say they did the right thing in staying put. According to Indiana’s traffic code, when an emergency vehicle is approaching from behind, motorists are to “immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway clear of any intersection.”
Burt told The Star the riders were stopped in the left lane of the two-lane road when he heard the siren behind them. Weekly and Mills were on one bike, which was in front and on the left side of the lane. Burt was to the back and on the right side of the lane, and Wells was to the back and on the left. Other motorists were in the right-hand lane. “I heard the sirens coming,” Burt said. “I looked to the left, then to the right, and then back, and I see a cop car coming toward us. We can’t move to the right, because there are cars stopped to the right. We can’t go forward, because there are cars in front of us. What we did, is we stayed put. It’s what we are supposed to do. The only avenue for the cop is the left-turn lane, and that was free.”
About Officer David Bisard:
A nine-year veteran, Bisard received several awards from the department, including a medal of valor for killing a bank robbery suspect who had ambushed him with an AK-47 in April. He recorded more than 800 arrests in nine years with IMPD, according to records. As a member of the Noblesville Police Department in the late 1990s, he received awards two years in a row from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and won commendations four years in a row.
Bisard also was one of the IMPD’s most aggressive officers. Records show his 14 vehicle pursuits were more than any other officer working in Marion County in 2003 and 2004. But in eight years with IMPD, he had five minor on-duty crashes during pursuits.
• July 24, 2002: Bisard struck a fence in the 3300 block of North Baltimore Avenue when a motorist he was chasing jumped out of his car. The police report said Bisard “was forced to veer to the left to avoid striking the subject.”
• Dec. 15, 2003: Bisard slid on a snow bank into a fence while chasing a suspect in the 2900 block of North Illinois Street. According to a report, Bisard “came into contact with a large area of snow that was still on the ground. As he was trying to turn, he lost control of his vehicle and slid into a fence.”
• Jan. 11, 2004: The driver of a car Bisard was chasing opened the driver’s door, and Bisard hit it.
• Sept. 23, 2005: Bisard struck a “small concrete retaining wall” while chasing a suspect in the 3300 block of Forest Manor Avenue.
• Aug. 23, 2007: suspect Bisard was chasing stopped his car, then went into reverse and struck Bisard’s squad car.
Why were DUI charges brought against him and then dropped?
State law requires a blood test of drivers involved in every accident involving a serious injury. Bisard took the test about two hours after the crash, a period that police and lawyers said is normal after an accident. According to an IMPD report, investigators went to Methodist Occupational Health Facility, 1001 S. Eastern Ave., where Bisard was being treated for minor injuries to his arms and to the top of his head, to get a blood draw about 1 p.m. When that sample was later tested, the reading was 0.19. Under Indiana law, a motorist is legally drunk at 0.08.
Police officers who had been at the scene of the accident and in close proximity to Bisard said they had not smelled alcohol on him, nor did he seem drunk. Experts said it would have taken 10 drinks or more to reach a 0.19 level. Based on the blood test, Bisard was charged with multiple felony counts of DUI and DUI resulting in a death. He was roundly condemned and faced significant prison time. But then the charges were suddenly dropped. Prosecutors had learned that the lab tech who drew Bisard’s blood sample was not certified under Indiana’s DUI laws to do such work for a criminal case. Therefore the test results would almost certainly be inadmissible in court.
Charges against Officer Bisard:
Based on the blood-alcohol test Bisard was charged with seven felony counts of drunken driving and reckless homicide. The most serious of those charges was a Class B felony count of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, causing death, with a blood-alcohol content at or above 0.15. A Class B felony carries a penalty of six to 20 years in prison or a $10,000 fine. However, all the DUI-related charges were dropped on Aug. 19 because the blood draw upon the alcohol test was made had not been taken by someone certified to do so in criminal cases. Bisard still faced one of the original charges — reckless homicide — and two new charges of criminal recklessness.
How is this tied to the Hovey Street slaying?
Bisard was one of two officers who first responded to the Hovey Street home where two women and two babies were slain in January 2008. Defense attorneys representing shooting suspect Ronald L. Davis in the death penalty case said they had long questioned whether police were negligent or incompetent in responding to the crime based on a nearly 30-minute delay in the officers’ arrival at the victims’ house on the city’s Near Northside. A court motion filed Sept. 2 said Bisard’s Aug. 6 crash raised new concerns. The lawyers’ aim is to learn whether Bisard has “a long-standing addiction to alcohol” that might have affected his ability to do his job, the motion says. but at least one legal expert said that assertion is a stretch.
Burbank, California this afternoon.
The Marion County (Indiana) Prosecutor has a hell of a mess on his hands. Terry Curry is prosecuting Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer David Bisard in connection with a deadly crash where Bisard is accused of being drunk when he killed one motorcyclist and severely injured two others. The entire investigation and case have been mishandled from the beginning. Police malfeasance has caused critical evidence to be inadmissible and just when it appeared that authorities were getting their act together, police mishandled more key evidence possibly jeopardizing a case against one of their own.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Paul Ciesielski resigned from his job today. Mayor Greg Ballard says IMPD mishandled a second vial of police officer David Bisard’s blood in a deadly crash, and that Ciesielski took responsibility. Several other high-ranking IMPD officers and department heads have been placed on leave in connection with the case. It’s unclear yet how the mishandled evidence will affect pending civil and criminal cases against Bisard. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry issued the following statement today:“During the process of requesting permission to test the second vial of blood drawn from Officer David Bisard, our office became aware that this sample had been moved from a refrigerated environment in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department property room to an unrefrigerated environment at the property room annex. This office did not authorize or order the second vial of blood to be moved.
We are currently working with an independent lab to clarify the implications of testing the blood from the second vial, and do not yet know if or how the blood was affected. We do not know the events that transpired causing Officer Bisard’s blood to be moved while in IMPD’s custody, and we are exceedingly concerned that it occurred. I met with the victims and victims’ families this morning at 11a.m. to inform them. At this time, we do not believe these developments will negatively impact the prosecution of this case. Regardless of these developments, this office is continuing to move forward with the prosecution against Officer Bisard.”
The Prosecutor should not have to fight the police for competency to prosecute an alleged drunken killer. The people of Indianapolis should be able to have confidence in the rank in file members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and their elected leaders. The Bisard case has tainted public perception about the IMPD. As if initial reports of police incompetence in investigating one of their own were not bad enough…now they have to face serious questions about the police department’s command staff. As Gomer Pyle suggested “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”
The job of a police officer is demanding, stressful and deserving of respect. The challenges these men and women face, everyday, are notable but when cases of malfeasance occur not once but twice involving the same high-profile case, what are we to expect? How can anyone ask for confidence in an agency that has shown over and over again that it cannot be trusted with the basic principles of an investigation. Is it likely that all 1,617 members of the IMPD are corrupt or inept? Of course not and we should not even visit that type of discussion, however, at the same time how can we be expected to put our trust and confidence in an agency that has shown such contempt for the letter of the law?
You may recall the story from Indianapolis where a drunken cop, operating his police cruiser in emergency mode while texting another officer about state fair food crashed into a group of motorcyclists killing one man and critically injuring others. David Bisard was driving his cruiser at 65 to 70 mph with lights and siren active while responding to a call when the late-morning crash occurred on East 56th Street near I-465, police said. The canine officer quickly became a household name when, days after the crash, seemingly out of nowhere, what looked like a tragic accident ballooned into a case of alleged misconduct, sparking outrage across Indianapolis. Despite few indications at the scene, a much-contested blood test suggested Bisard had been driving drunk, with a blood-alcohol reading of 0.19, more than twice the level at which a driver is considered as having driven while drunk.
Mishandling of the initial investigation by police have led to Bisard facing lesser charges than someone who normally kills someone while driving drunk. The people of Indianapolis were asked to keep calm and to place their confidence in city leaders to try to make the situation right by correcting police procedures and ensuring Bisard faces some kind of justice for his actions. What we have learned today is unbelievable. A second vial of Bisard’s blood, a key piece of evidence in the state’s remaining case against him has been mishandled by Indianapolis police.
Mayor Greg Ballard (R) and Public Safety Director Frank Straub made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. Ballard said Indianapolis Police Chief Paul Ciesielski is stepping down and that the FBI would assist the city in investigating the incident. Several other high-ranking IMPD officers and department head have been placed on leave in connection with the case. Bisard was on duty when he struck motorcyclists stopped at a red light on Aug. 6, 2010, killing Eric Wells and injuring Kurt Weekly and Mary Mills, police said. A blood test administered about two hours after the crash showed that Bisard had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.19 percent. Bisard was charged with seven felonies, but former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi withdrew alcohol-related charges because he doubted the evidence would be admissible in court because standard procedures weren’t followed in the way the evidence was procured.
A judge ruled in May 2011 that blood-alcohol evidence could not be used to bring charges of drunken driving, but ruled later than it could be used to support a charge of criminal recklessness. Last week, a Marion County judge ruled that prosecutors could test a second vial of Bisard’s blood drawn shortly after the crash. It is unknown how the police department’s mishandling of the second vial of blood could affect the case. Ballard also said there will be a thorough investigation of IMPD’s management. “When this stuff happens, we’re not hiding it,” Ballard said. The announcement was broadcast locally on some TV stations. The mayor was joined by Public Safety Director Frank Straub at the press conference. Following the press conference, Fraternal Order of Police president Bill Owensby said Straub should resign also. Straub’s job performance is to be evaluated later this week by a City-County Council committee.
I started following this story shortly after it happened and remain in shock over the handling of this case. Like a lot of people, I agreed that it was best to let the system work and correct the errors made but at this point, I do not have confidence in the police administration in Indianapolis to fix this and that’s unfortunate. It would probably be best for Frank Straub to step aside at this point. I applaud the Mayor’s decisions regarding this case but it might be too little, too late.
Did a Texas man, shot to death by a Deputy Sheriff have a death wish? His neighbor doesn’t think so. A paralyzed driver led police on a wild chase on I-45 before he was shot and killed by a Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy Tuesday, according to authorities. The chase, which began on FM 1097 in Willis, Texas around 1 a.m., ended on I-45 at the Woodlands Parkway. An officer with the Willis Police Department attempted to pull over a red pickup truck, with handicapped license plates, for running a red light, but the driver refused to stop.
The driver, 43-year-old Bryan Carnes, took off speeding southbound on I-45 and was seen throwing several items– possibly narcotics– out the window, according to police. Authorities said Carnes used the wheelchair attached to the truck to threaten officers. During the pursuit, he remotely opened and closed the cover over the bed of the truck and would move a boom with a wheel chair on it out over the roadway.
Carnes lowered the wheelchair at times, causing it to bounce on the roadway and off the side of the truck, but the chair never dislodged and remained tethered to the boom.
The Conroe Police Department, Shenandoah Police Department, Department of Public Safety and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office joined in the chase and attempted to spike the truck’s tires. One of the attempts was successful, and three of the four tires were flattened. Carnes’ pickup struck a concrete barrier just south of Woodlands Parkway and came to rest on the outside shoulder of the interstate, but the chaos did not end there. When deputies and officers approached Carnes, he opened his door screaming that he had a gun and yelled “shoot me.” Carnes then reached down and appeared to be retrieving something from under his seat. That is when a Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy fired at least three rounds from his pistol, striking the Carnes in the torso. Carnes was taken to the Woodlands Hospital by ambulance, where he later died.
Neighbor Callie Flores said it doesn’t sound like Carnes to ask to be shot. “It’s just so out of character for him,” she said. “It’s not him. It’s really not. It just… I was like he was saying ‘shoot me, shoot me’? That just doesn’t add up. I don’t know. It doesn’t sound like Bryan at all.”
The south bound lanes of I-45 were closed several hours, with traffic being diverted onto to the service road, until crews cleared the scene.
KHOU-TV and KTRK-TV contributed to this report.
OSLO, Norway — (DMN/CNN) – Anders Behring Breivik, the man on trial for killing 77 people in Norway last summer, boasted Tuesday that he had carried out “the most sophisticated and spectacular political attack in Europe since World War II.” And he would do it again if he had the chance, “because offenses against my people and my fellow partisans are as many ways as bad,” he said. He planned his killings as a suicide attack, he said. “I didn’t expect to survive that day,” he said.
Breivik testified in closed court a day after declaring that he had carried out the massacre but was not guilty because the killings had been necessary. “I acknowledge the acts but do not plead guilty,” he told the court Monday. A court translator initially said Breivik was claiming self-defense as the justification, but court officials corrected that Tuesday, saying the correct legal term was “necessity.” His lawyer, Geir Lippestad, said Monday that he would try to show that his client was sane when he set off a bomb that killed eight people in central Oslo and then systematically gunned down 69 people at a youth camp on nearby Utoya Island.
Breivik’s trial on charges of voluntary homicide and committing acts of terror is expected to last up to 10 weeks. He was allowed to read a prepared statement in court on Tuesday, taking considerably longer than the 30 minutes he was allotted. But presiding Judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen ruled that his testimony would not be broadcast, rejecting his claim that airing it was a human right. The court did not want the trial to become a platform for Breivik to air his political views or for them to become a distraction from the legal issues, according to legal papers. “It is important that the accused during his testimony is not given a speaking platform for his message,” they said.
Most of the relatives of the victims did not want Breivik’s remarks televised. He rejected what he said would be prosecution efforts to portray him as a “pathetic and mean loser” and an “antisocial psychopath.” He said he represented a “European resistance movement” and “Europeans who don’t want our ethnic rights to be taken away.” Under examination by prosecutors, he claimed to be linked to two other individuals in Norway who are associated with the so-called Knights Templar ultranationalist movement. He said “militant nationalists” had drawn tactical inspiration from Osama bin Laden’s terror network. “We’ve taken a bit from al Qaeda and militant Islamists, including the glorification of martyrdom” and organization into one-man cells, he said.
He denied that what he called the “militant nationalist” movement was evil. “We don’t act to be evil. We’re trying to save our nations, our ethnic group and our culture,” he said. One of the judges was disqualified Tuesday before the hearing began for saying online that the death penalty was the right punishment for Breivik. Defense and prosecutor attorneys both asked that Thomas Indrebo be disqualified for leaving a comment on a news website that “only the death penalty” would be the right thing in the case. Norway does not have the death penalty. Indrebo was one of three lay judges on the panel of five, along with two professional judges.
Breivik says his rampage was meant to save Norway from being taken over by multicultural forces and to prevent ethnic cleansing of Norwegians, Lippestad said. In a 1,500-page manifesto attributed to him, Breivik railed against Muslim immigration and European liberalism, including the Labour Party, which he said was allowing the “Islamification of Europe.” Prosecutors on Monday played a recording of a terrified girl phoning for help during the shooting rampage, a recording punctuated by constant firing in the background. They also showed security camera video of the central Oslo bomb blast that killed eight people, images that participants in the trial watched with ashen faces.
Breivik sat in court without restraints, behind a bulletproof glass barrier set up to protect him during the proceedings. Experts have given different opinions about Breivik’s sanity, which will be a factor in determining what punishment he receives if convicted. Sentencing options could include imprisonment or confining him to a mental facility. Prosecutors on Monday outlined Breivik’s life before the killings, showing a photo of the messy room where he lived at his mother’s house, listing his six failed businesses and referring to his many hours playing the online game “World of Warcraft.” Prosecutors said he had “no job, no salary, no money from the government” and was “living off his savings.”
The defendant smiled briefly when his “Warcraft” character was shown, one of the few times he showed emotion Monday. He also appeared to be overcome with emotion, fighting back tears, when part of his video manifesto “Knights Templar 2083″ was played in court. On Tuesday, he said he wept as he watched the film because he was thinking about his country and ethnic group dying. Lawyers for the victims had said Monday that “No one thought he was crying for the victims.” In November, prosecutors said psychiatrists had determined that Breivik was paranoid and schizophrenic at the time of the attacks and during 13 interviews experts conducted with him afterward. However, the court sought a second opinion because of the importance of the question of sanity to Breivik’s trial. In a report released this month, two court-appointed psychiatric experts said Breivik was sane at the time of the killings.
In the days of old, competition was a good thing. Government stayed out of business and allowed businesses to expand and compete resulting in better products and services and usually lower prices. There is a feud going on inside Houston City Hall that defies logic. Southwest Airlines has proposed flying international from William Hobby Airport which is Houston’s smaller, domestic, airport located south of downtown. Southwest, which is famous for low fares and high standards of service has proposed flying to Latin America from Hobby. You would think, from the initial reaction from United Airlines and some Houston City Council members that this would be bad for the flying public.
United swallowed Continental Airlines hole like a hog swallowing a chicken creating the worlds largest airline. Houston lost it’s hometown airline and some jobs to Chicago based United. United is known both for bad service and being mean. The 2012 Airline Quality Ratings (AQR) report shows that United Airlines had the highest rate of consumer complaints in 2011, beating out all other airlines with 2.21 complaints per 100,000 passengers. As a result, United received the worst AQR score out of the 11 national carriers ranked. Some experts suggest that the company’s $3 billion merger with Continental Airlines is to blame. “Anytime you have two airlines trying to combine, one of those airlines is going to have a period of decline,” he explains. United also experienced a drop in its percentage of on-time arrivals, and the number of lost or damaged bags increased from 3.4 per 1,000 passengers to 3.66.
United passengers are still complaining about long phone delays and other glitches following the company’s switchover to the reservation system of merger partner Continental. The Associated Press is the latest media outlet to pick up on the story, writing that the problems come “more than three weeks after a computer switchover that was supposed to make traveling better after the airline’s merger with Continental.” AP says the issues include “widespread reports of passengers waiting on hold to fix ticketing problems” and “odd balances … showing up in frequent flier accounts.” AP talked to several United passengers who say ultra-long hold times prompted them to give up on trying to reach the airline by phone.
United says calls have spiked because of customers inquiring about changes and about the way itineraries and upgrades have shown up online since the switchover. United has added about 600 phone agents and says it’s working to address the issues that are prompting customers to call in the first place. United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy tells AP average wait times had dropped to about 10 minutes as of Tuesday afternoon, though she says that figure varied depending on time of day and on the weather’s impact on flights.
Elsewhere, AP cites a complaint from the airline’s top-level frequent fliers, who are eligible to receive space-available upgrades on most domestic flights. But the elite-level frequent fliers say the upgrades haven’t been clearing they way they’re supposed to. And, AP says “when their upgrades didn’t come through, they started calling,” adding to United’s call-center backlog. For its part, United tells AP it has addressed most of the upgrade problems. But the lingering issues there could prove troublesome for the carrier if they continue. AP notes “United executives have said that they want to customize the airline for business travelers, who tend to pay more. So problems upgrading frequent fliers to better seats annoyed the very passengers that the airline was trying to impress.” Elsewhere, customers have complained that some reservations and gate agents have struggled to master the new system following the switchover. United insists it is making progress on working out the kinks.
Perhaps United should worry about it’s service issues which is probably behind it’s fight against Southwest. Head to head, United doesn’t stand a chance but that hasn’t stopped them from doing everything to stop Southwest from flying international from Hobby. Airline executives packed Houston City Council chambers Monday as aviation officials formally presented their hotly contested recommendation to allow international flights from Hobby Airport. Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly sat in an audience crowded with lobbyists and consultants involved in the high-stakes fight.
United Airlines—the city’s dominant air carrier, which hubs international flights out of Bush Intercontinental Airport – is fighting Southwest’s effort to fly international routes out of Hobby. United has hired a number of former top-level city officials to help lobby against Southwest, arguing that the proposal would force United to cut flights and jobs in Houston. Testy council members peppered the aviation director with questions about his department’s economic impact studies, challenging his data and his conclusions. Their sometimes angry comments made it clear that Southwest’s plans for Hobby won’t happen without a fight. “I really can’t believe these numbers,” said City Councilmember Andrew Burks, who questioned the $110,000 cost of the report presented to city council.
Houston’s aviation director concluded that Southwest’s proposal would lower air fares, create more than 10,000 jobs and generate an economic impact of more than $1.6 billlion a year. But United has challenged those numbers, arguing the proposal would hurt Bush Intercontinental and create a net loss of jobs. “I don’t believe the assumption that jobs will be lost,” said Mario Diaz, Houston’s aviation director. The proposal would cost all passengers flying out of Hobby an additional $1.50 per ticket. That fee would pay for a $100 million bond issue, which would bankroll the expanded federal inspection services necessary for handling international flights.
Many council members were visibly angry with the way the proposal was handled, arguing that the aviation director had reached a conclusion without adequately consulting with all the people involved. “You all have blown it, in my view,” said Councilmember C.O. Bradford. “This roll out has simply been a disaster.” A number of council members echoed United’s argument that international flights from Hobby would pit the city’s two airports against each other and weaken Bush Intercontinental. “I feel this report was custom made just to satisfy the needs of Southwest Airlines,” said Councilmember Al Hoang. Houston’s mayor and city council will vote on the proposal next month.
Councilman Al Hoang said, “I feel that this report is already biased, it’s already custom-made just to satisfy the demand of Southwest.” A council chamber gallery usually vacant for committee meetings was packed with operatives for both airlines, which have enlisted lobbyists, former city officials, attorneys and public relations professionals to make their case to the 17-member council. Monday’s hearing suggested that United’s efforts have gained more traction.
Councilman Andrew Burks questioned the numbers in the report and singled out a projected fare of $133 to Bogota. “You can’t even fly from Houston to Lubbock on Southwest for $133,” Burks said. “I really want to just throw this proposal out the window because, right now, when I see numbers that can’t match, it just don’t work for me.” United is working up its own study on the impact of an international Hobby. The two airlines are scheduled to square off in presentations before council on May 8. Councilman Larry Green called for a new study to be done by a consultant with no recent ties to the city. Some have questioned United Airlines relationship with City Hall before, during and after it’s acquisition of Continental Airlines. I question it as well. When the city’s own aviation director is coming under fire for presenting a fair and impartial report that would help Houston’s economy, you have to wonder why there is such fire coming from Council. Follow the money…
The Houston Chronicle, KHOU-TV and the Associated Press contributed to this report.