Want to take a yacht trip? The port did!

July 14, 2011 7:57:06 PM PDT
Port of Houston spending is back under the spotlight. At a time when Harris County was preparing to lay off teachers and public employees, the Port of Houston was full speed ahead.


The script below is verbatim of 13 Undercover's report


After wasting more than $100 million on a cruise terminal no one uses, you'd figure the port would be more careful where it spends your money.

Well, there's still no sign of cruise ships, but the port bigwigs did get a ride on a luxury yacht.

What does this have to do with our Port-of-Plenty investigation?

No not pork. I said port.

It's time to go Undercover back at the Port-of-Plenty.

It was one of the featured films at Worldfest, Houston's International Film Festival. What does that have to do with the business of the ship channel? Good question. Look who's listed as a sponsor -- the Port of Houston.

"They don't understand it," State Sen. John Whitmire said.

Champagne, music, food -- all aboard the luxury yacht Star Gazer.

"Somebody ought to pound their fists on the desk and say, 'OK, enough is enough, we want some changes,'" Sen. Whitmire said.

But what better place to watch a regatta for Houston's diplomatic community? If you weren't there, you could see the fun on Facebook.

The bill for an afternoon on the water about $7,000; $2,000 more for the live band and another $2,000 for food at the Houston Yacht Club before the race.

The rest of the expenses were paid by the Houston Yacht Club.

And after the race of course, you have to give out trophies.

The port could have used a place already paid for. Take a gander at who the Yacht Club has as its next door neighbor -- the Bayport Cruise Terminal -- $106 million of plenty of empty space.

And what better way to spread the word around the world that Houston's state-of-the-art cruise terminal is open and desperate for business.

But instead the port holds the event three days later at a hotel in the Galleria; another chance to party, another chance to spend money.

The port's share of the awards reception -- more than $13,000.

But they did pay the whole bill for that centerpiece -- an ice sculpture carved into the emblem of the Houston Port Authority.

They even paid for photos of the ice sculpture. And John Acevedo, the flamenco guitarist who they paid. There's John and the ice sculpture together.

The regatta on Galveston Bay came just days after we questioned why that Bayport Cruise Terminal was empty two years after it was built, costing more every day.

"Very frustrated and it's not a new frustration," said Sen. Whitmire.

Powerful Houston State Senator John Whitmire led the call for a state review of the port. He says his 800,000 constituents have seen enough.

"Whose head rolled over that decision? I believe in accountability," he said.

We asked the port chairman to talk to us last week, but he said no.

"Where is the urgency to try to do something with that terminal," Sen. Whitmire said.

Maybe Port President Alec Dreyer's assistant has the answer in an email we found: 'HR would like to announce the date and location of the Annual Employee Picnic. Due to the recent publicity about the cruise terminal -- should we even mention the location"

But of course you've got to plan a party.

The email continued, "So can we commit that we will hold the picnic at the Bayport Cruise Terminal?"

It does, after all, have plenty of room.

Alec Dreyer's response: "Not yet."

In April, the Port of Houston also had their invitational golf championship at the Timber Creek Golf Club. Life at the Port-of-Plenty.

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