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Houston City Council takes pity on Texans - no more ties or panty hose this summer

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Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Nobody except the Houston City Council, that is. As a record drought and heat wave slowly reduces Texas to dried jerky, council members are at least trying to make people a little more comfortable.

It isn't exactly disaster aid from Washington, but the Heat Relief Act of 1998 can perhaps offer some immediate gratification.The resolution, proposed by eight council members, begins: "Whereas, it's hotter than hell in Houston; whereas the rain just ain't happening in Bayou City, be it resolved (that) a City of Houston dress code shall be established. Henceforth, it shall be illegal for any employer, public or private in Houston to require the wearing of panty hose or neckties during work hours for the remainder of July and the months of August and September of 1998."

The resolution calls for public humiliation of corporate officers who demand formal dress from their workers. Such humiliation includes, but isn't limited to, "public flogging by City Council, ridicule in the local media" and a month of chambermaid duty at the city zoo. Repeat offenders, the resolution says, shall be turned over to the Public Works Department and made into speed bumps.

"The zoo cages are ready," said Councilman Joe Roach, author of the proposed resolution. He predicted rapid passage of the nonbinding resolution, once Mayor Lee Brown returns from an official trip to the Middle East. (The temperature in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last week was 111 degrees.)

Indeed, Roach appears to have majority support on the 14-member council, some of it quite enthusiastic. One fellow member who signed the resolution embellished her signature with tiny flames.

Even though council resolutions don't carry the force of law, Roach said he expects full compliance from the business community. "I think they're too afraid to come out against it," he said.

Industry may be ahead of the law. American General Corp., an insurance and finance company based in Houston and widely perceived as button-down, already has instituted a "business casual program" for its workers, spokesman John Pluhowski said. "It does help our employees deal with the heat," he said. But asked if the casual code specifically mentioned pantyhose, Pluhowski demurred. "I'm sitting on a beach in Cape Cod, so I don't have the policy in front of me," he said, adding gleefully, "The weather here is beautiful."