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Black councilmen question Texaco sponsorship of CART Indy race

August 28, 1997

HOUSTON (AP) _ A CART race for downtown Houston has hit a snag after two black city councilmen questioned Texaco’s sponsorship of the Indy-car race and pushed back a vote on the issue.

Last month, Texaco and Houston mayor Bob Lanier announced a five-year contract with Championship Auto Racing Teams to run the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston through downtown.

The first race over a 1.68-mile, 10-turn temporary circuit is scheduled for Oct. 4, 1998.

Approval of the contract was scheduled to go before a city council vote on Wednesday. But council members Jew Don Boney and Michael Yarbrough exercised their option to delay a vote for one week.

``I tagged the issue because there are some answers to some questions that I need,″ Yarbrough said.

He said he wants to know, among other things, how downtown road improvements will be financed.

When the race was announced, city officials hinted that the $1 million initial investment for road work would be worth it because of the $25 million to $30 million expected to be spent during the event.

``I want to know where the money would be coming from, and what impact that would have (on my district), because we need our streets repaired,″ Yarbrough said.

``Plus, we’re looking at Texaco as far as the African-Americans are concerned, especially with the tape that was exposed of last year, the hiring practices.″

Texaco Inc., based in White Plains, N.Y., endured a boycott before settling a racial discrimination lawsuit last November for a record $176 million.

Texaco settled the case after audiotape recordings that appeared to show executives plotting to shred papers related to the case were made public last year.

Lanier said he hopes council members will look fairly at the issue.

``I think they’ve (Texaco) gone a long way to try to break that, and I would hope that in this city we would accept their efforts with good grace and all of us try to respect one another,″ Lanier said. ``I think this represents their endeavoring to be a good citizen here in the community.″

Texaco officials defended their sponsorship.

``We’ve chosen to partner with the city because we agree with the mayor and believe there are benefits to holding this major sporting event in the city of Houston,″ Maripat Sexton, Texaco’s Houston spokeswoman, said.

``Our strong record on diversity and economic outreach in the city of Houston and throughout the U.S. demonstrated our commitment to these important issues.″

A call to Carl Haas, a CART director, team owner and organizer of similar events at Milwaukee and Elkhart Lake, Wis., was not returned to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

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