Letters

Seeing Things
There is a slight problem with the opening setup for the cover story ["Profits First, People Second," by Brian Wallstin and T.R. Witcher, August 17] on the city's RTC apartment program, "Two years ago on a fine summer day, Mayor Bob Lanier herded president Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore out Interstate 10 to the Winwood Club Apartment ... on Houston's western edge."

It never happened.
And the direct quotes attributed to the mayor at this mysterious event?
He never said them.

To the Press' credit, I understand that you recognize this and chalk it up to a misreading of something in a file from somewhere.

I am left with one question. Whatever it was that the reporter consumed before writing this story ... where can I get some?

If an event as prominent as a presidential visit could be invented, your readers should also wonder what else was wrong in the story. Or equally important, what facts were left out which didn't fit the dreams or preconceived opinions of the writer.

We might start with the fact that some of the so-called city profits from the sales have already been spent to directly benefit the "poor" residents at some Housing Authority projects. Security improvements and a children's playground come to mind. The "profits" also funded an emergency housing program for the homeless.

Most of the money will be used over time for affordable housing, such as down payment assistance for families who just need a little margin to move into their own homes. Our point here is that a working family of four struggling to make it on $30,000 a year deserves some consideration. If that makes the RTC program a nightmare for the poor or for reporters or for even poor reporters, then we stand guilty as dreamed.

Dave Walden
Chief of Staff
Office of the Mayor

Editor's reply: Walden is 100 percent correct with regard to the "visit" by Lanier, Clinton and Gore to the Winwood Apartments. It never happened, at least not in this universe.

We wish we had a good explanation, but we don't. One of the two writers of the story, Brian Wallstin, constructed the scene that opened the story from a "press release" found in the documents on the RTC program obtained from the city through an Open Records Act request. The press release referred to the "tour" in the past tense and included quotes from Lanier lauding the RTC's affordable housing program. As best we can belatedly determine, the press release was prepared when a tour of the complex was being considered prior to Clinton and Gore's September 1993 visit to Houston. Whatever the case, Wallstin did not verify with other sources whether the event actually took place. This was an inexcusable mistake, as he readily acknowledges.

Otherwise, the Press stands by (the rest of) the story.

They're All Wet
The August 3 cartoon by Michael Fry was great!
I have been a "storm trooper" for the past 25 plus years, traveling to all the major disasters to help with rebuilding and recovery. I have also devoted a lot of hours watching television weather reports. This cartoon hit it square on the head.

It is said that the various news media can put on rain gear, wet themselves down with a water hose, then go on with such out-of-place news on the approaching storm. I feel so sad for the elderly and shut-ins whom I know have to be scared after watching one of these reports.

Stan Miller
Hitchcock

What's The Difference
Please note that "belle de jour" translates into "beauty by day" and not "beauty of the day" [Film, "Walk on the Wild Side," by Matt Zoller Seitz, August 10]. Just like "soupe du jour" is "soup of the day," "beauty of the day" would be "belle du jour." The Houston Chronicle did not get it either, but in my opinion film title is an important part of a review.

Artur Kania
Houston

That Was the Point, We Thought
I just finished reading "The Case for GulfWarGate" by Randall Patterson [News, August 3] and was very disappointed with the quality of the article. The entire story boils down to one couple's theory regarding the obligatory government conspiracy with not one piece of corroborating evidence. Gulf War Syndrome is very serious, and if the Nicolsons had any real proof to back their claims of government involvement, it sure didn't come to light in this article. Far from it.

According to the story, Nancy Nicolson believed she was deliberately infected with a microorganism, yet offered no proof of any kind. She said that she was fired from Baylor because she wouldn't go along with germ warfare, but again, offered no proof. The Nicolsons were supposedly under surveillance by the "espionage community" with phone taps and intercepted letters and faxes. Still no proof. The article mentioned "high-level government assassins" (as opposed to low-level government assassins!) and "intelligence sources," but Mr. Patterson didn't even provide so much as an anonymous quote from them to confirm the Nicolsons' claims. Mrs. Nicolson claimed attempts on her life by assassins and that a Department of Defense agent with a gun tried to scare her. Maybe these were the same folks who were going to disrupt the wedding of Ross Perot's daughter back in 1992!

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