Letters

A Word from Randall Davis
To say that the article written by Lisa Bass ["Lofty Aspersions," June 27] was disconcerting would be a dramatic understatement. I was completely taken by surprise regarding the subject matter, short response time and purported unhappiness of various residents at the Dakota Lofts. Listed below are factual responses to the allegations put forth in the article.

Tenant Jay Seegers was involved in more than one heated disagreement with members of my staff. They felt it best for both parties if Mr. Seegers sought residence elsewhere; however, he filed suit against the Dakota Lofts in order to remain a resident! How unhappy could he be?

Anne Leahey, purported leader of a tenants' group, claimed that "service is nonexistent." In a survey conducted on or about June 1, we polled the residents as to their satisfaction with the management and maintenance. More than one-third of the residents responded; 31 percent rated it excellent, 52 percent rated it good, 11 percent rated it fair and only 5 percent rated the management and maintenance as poor.

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Dakota resident Gill Perales was quoted as saying that "his service is below quality." Patsy Halanski has been the manager of Dakota Lofts for more than one year. She received her first maintenance request from Mr. Perales in March 1996. He followed this with three requests for service in May 1996, which were related to the fact that he wished to renew his lease. He signed a new lease on June 1, 1996. How unhappy could he be?

Your article implies that 22 of the 53 units at Dakota have joined the "tenants association." Upon establishing the validity of the list, we find that only 15 lofts are represented and some residents were coerced into signing the petition. The purported focus of the association is to "combat health and safety problems at the Dakota." We have never received a health or safety citation at the Dakota Lofts!

The purported petition has a "laundry list" of items, which include a "lack of fire extinguishers in the hallways." The city of Houston Fire Department made their annual inspection of the building on February 21, 1996. Their report did not note a lack of fire extinguishers in the hallway. The entire building is sprinkled, and we employ a fire alarm monitoring company.

Trash is picked up daily -- it is never blocking a stairwell. Security codes allegedly have "not been changed in three years." The security codes were most recently changed in November 1995 and again in March 1996 by written notification to all residents.

There is an issue regarding an open sewer line in the basement garage. There is no open sewer line in the basement; however, four months ago a car bumped a sewer line and we had a spill the size of a "football." This sewer line was repaired within 48 hours of the incident. Ms. Leahey is photographed in front of an old roof drain. There was an old rag in this pipe, but your report erroneously labels this pipe a sewer line. This pipe does no more than bring rain water off the roof.

The article indicates that there is a sign pointing to a "nonexistent fire extinguisher." This sign predates my renovation of the building. There is no requirement to have a fire extinguisher next to a telephone junction box or we would have been notified by the fire department during their February inspection.

The first floor fire escape door mentioned in the article would not stay closed as reported. This is the only allegation that is accurate; however, we have received no complaints prior to the tenant association's "laundry list." This door has been repaired.

Steve Stovall contends that we have cut corners in the construction of "this thing." I reconstructed a 100-year-old building, which meets the construction standards of the city of Houston. In fact, one resident has signed up to buy a Metropolis Loft condominium.

Mr. Stovall further alleges that he reported "a termite problem three times previously." His allegation is unsubstantiated. We have no record of termite activity reported to the manager or we would have called an exterminator immediately, as it potentially affects the value of our asset.

The closing allegation states that after leases get signed, "the Dakota gets back to total disrepair." I invite you or your reporter to visit the Dakota Lofts at any time, day or night, and you will find that this building is always in the best of condition. In my opinion, your story was biased toward a negative situation that did not exist.

Randall Davis
Randall Davis Company
Houston

Editor's note: The June 27 story mischaracterized the nature of the tenants association's complaint regarding security codes, and documents supplied by Davis after publication of the story show that residents were indeed notified of changes to the front door security code of Dakota Lofts in November and March. Additionally, the pipe stuffed with a rag shown in the picture accompanying the story is a drainpipe. The Press regrets the errors. The lawsuit by Jay Seegers to which Davis refers alleged breach of contract by Dakota Lofts for giving Seegers notice to vacate after he had signed a new lease. The suit claimed the notice was retaliation against Seegers for complaining about a proposed rent increase .

Too Mean to BiBi
Steve Brodner's mean-spirited cartoon [June 13] is a vicious misrepresentation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and has no basis in reality. Since his election in May, Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly declared his commitment to pursuing peace while ensuring security for Israeli citizens. While his approach is different from that of his predecessor's, his goal is the same. Israel's democratically elected leader has said he will continue to advance his people's support for the peace process even in the face of murderous terrorist attacks against them. Let's give him a chance.

Karen Susman
Southwest regional board chairman
Anti-Defamation League
Houston

Relax and Transmigrate
I guess being blasted by the reviewer from the Press is better than being ignored, but I must protest Megan Halverson's using her own words to describe the ending to my play [Theater, June 27]. The denouement of "Transmigration of Existence" is not, as she suggests, "it was all just a dream." As this play is about what happens to a woman when confronted with the possibility of death, the ending suggested by Halverson would indeed make the audience feel cheated. Fortunately, that is not the ending I wrote. In fact, during the production at the Absolute Theater, the nurse simply states, "The reports were wrong."

Also, the character Veronica does not have cancer. She has "dysplastic cells," which are detected in a routine exam. What is discovered by the "almost doctors" during a colposcopic procedure is actually never mentioned. Ms. Halverson's review reflects her own interpretation of what was deliberately left to the audience's imagination and cultural bias.

"Transmigration" in the title of my play refers to the appearance on stage of the Tibetan Wheel of Life. Throughout the play, this alternative view of life, and death, is explained through the character Angel, yet remains unseen or realized by Veronica (and obviously by Ms. Halverson, as well). Veronica is limited to utilizing the medical profession and Judeo-Christian belief system to stay her rising panic as she journeys toward an imagined death.

I want to thank Ms. Halverson, however, for explaining to me, and other readers of the Press, just what good theater is. Her advice that the Absolute Theater stick to producing plays written only by dead white men will ensure that the sensibilities of Houston audiences remain unthreatened. It will also guarantee that women playwrights never have an opportunity to emerge and develop their craft through actual productions. Presenting contemporary issues dressed up in dramatic clothing is, indeed, a dangerous precedent. This should not be allowed to occur at any cost.

Elizabeth Gilbert
Houston

Editor's note: That's not quite the "advice" that Halverson offered in her review. Besides, Harold Pinter is a live white male, or at least he was the last time we checked the Wheel of Life.

Too Much to Stomach
Talk about bad foundations! It was your cover story on David Weekley ["Slab O' Trouble," by Bob Burtman, June 27] that lacked a foundation.

Where do you get your story ideas? Did your reporter wake up one morning and say to himself, "Gee, I think I'll go out today and pick out one lawsuit out of the hundreds of thousands that are filed in Texas every year? Then I'll tell only one side of the story to try and convict the company, without even telling all the facts."

"Verdict first, trial later" is not a good motto for serious journalism, much less the kind of yellow journalism practiced at the Press. And how convenient that Weekley Homes was singled out for this treatment, given the fact that Richard Weekley, David Weekley's brother, is involved in civil justice reform. A cynical person might suspect that it was the plaintiff's lawyers who put your paper up to this story, trying to discredit the highly successful tort reform movement. I'm sure the fact that you have some prominent advertising by plaintiff's lawyers in your paper is pure coincidence. The financial benefit you receive does not qualify as a conflict of interest in your rule book. I suspect the Press doesn't have an employee handbook called "Commitment to Excellence," but Weekley Homes does.

Since you will not print a response nearly as long as your "hit piece" on David Weekley, it is impossible to address each one of the errors and omissions in your article. Did your reporter ask himself, "If this company and its founder are as bad as is portrayed, how could they have possibly been in business for more than 20 years? How could it win virtually every major award possible in their industry? How could Fortune feature it as one of the finest quality companies in the world, along with Pepsi-Cola, Saturn and British Airways?" I have worked at the southwest bureau of a reputable national business magazine, so I know if you don't have a hook, you don't have a story. In the case of the Press, if you can't do a slam job, you don't have a story.

It is usually easy for us readers to laugh off your paper's flagrant antibusiness bias while we are on our way to the only part of your paper worth reading, the restaurant and movie coverage. But your personal attack on one of Houston's outstanding citizens and the company he founded, which employs hundreds of Texans, is just too much to stomach. I have known David Weekley since I was 12 years old and know him to be honest, sincere, caring, a wonderful husband and father and a role-model citizen. David gives back to the community that has enabled him to become a success. The Boy Scouts and Star of Hope Mission are just two of the many organizations to which David gives many hours of his time. How sad that the eight-year-old girl in your story is being taught by her parents to "despise" someone she doesn't know, and because of a business dispute.

After the untimely demise of the Houston Post, I and many others hoped that the Press would take the opportunity to become a mature voice on serious issues. Instead, your paper has chosen to sink even lower into the immature and malicious sewer of sensationalism.

Amy C. Brown
Bellaire

Editor's reply: Okay, what errors and omissions?

Inspect That Property
Excellent article on David Weekley -- it should be inclusive of many Houston builders, not just Weekley.

When buying a new house, potential buyers need to keep in mind the caveat buyers beware. Buyers should approach the property with the idea that problems exist and that they need to be aggressive with their property inspections. Quality inspectors will help reveal these problems. Buyers need to seek out qualified inspectors, and in some cases, disregard recommendations by real estate agents' inspectors. Additional money spent up front for thorough inspections is money well spent.

Lastly, be prepared to walk away from the purchase. There are numerous other dream homes in the area.

Michael Pierce
Houston

The Entire Picture
I have known David Weekley and his wife for more than 20 years, and the first word that comes to mind when I think of him is integrity. While it is true that the CEO/president is ultimately responsible for all that besets his or her company, it is wise to look at the entire picture for flaws. It is impossible to be all places at all times. If there indeed are problems, I'll bet that David will resolve them to everyone's satisfaction, fairly and conscientiously. One-sided, sensationalist reporting discredits all the good things you strive to accomplish. Don't burn the guy before giving him a chance -- it benefits no one.

April Rapier
Houston

Won Stop Wonders
Has Steve Stockman paid his student loans? After all, as "our" representative, he and his $58,000-per-year JSC wife can well afford to pay it off! As for his "home protectors," are they part of a personal malicious militia?

A.J. da Silva
Clear Lake City

That Left-out Feeling
As recipients of last year's award for Best Latin/Tejano Band, we were very surprised not to find the name of Mango Punch! among the nominees for this year's award.

Because we are even more active and in demand than last year, I consider this to be a very serious omission on your part. Our fan base has grown, our popularity is rising and your nominating committee has overlooked that we are one of the busiest bands in town. If there is a reason for this, I would very much like to know their criteria. If it was just an oversight, I would much appreciate it if you could correct that mistake in the remaining printouts of the ballots.

Although your nominating committee does include several people who are knowledgeable of the Houston music scene, none of them seems to me to be particularly strong in their knowledge of the Latin music genre.

Furthermore, we weren't even invited to be a part of the Houston Showcase of Bands. We couldn't make the showcase last year because we had a prior commitment, but we would have considered participating this year. Our band has the quality to contribute significantly to this event.

We know there are a lot of bands in town, and it must be hard to keep track of everybody. But we have been around for more than five years, and our name is constantly in your paper. Quite frankly, we're disappointed.

Walter Suhr
Mango Punch!
Houston

Everybody Play Together
Once again I am frustrated to find the interests of the Alley Theatre, and of the Theatre District, characterized as being at odds with its fellow arts presenters throughout Houston. I should hasten to point out: that Alley artists and staff regularly work with many of these other organizations; that the Alley itself has collaborated on a variety of projects with the Ensemble, DiverseWorks and others; and that Alley employees have themselves been loyal and enthusiastic audience members for productions mounted outside of the Theatre District. The constituent organizations of the Theatre District have no interest whatsoever in undercutting the vitality of other producers; to the contrary, our proposal to restructure the funding process is intended to serve the long-term benefit of all of Houston's arts organizations. This basic contention should be confirmed by an open-minded reading of our proposal, not by hearsay.

I am impressed with Margie Beegle's commitment to attending "everything" [Letters, "No Wegman Brochures," July 4] including the Alley Theatre's productions. I want, however, to correct the impression she made that our performances are financially inaccessible. This past season, through the Alley's Educational and Community Outreach Programs, we distributed more than 10,000 free tickets to our productions. Another 28,000 tickets were made available at substantial discounts (average price: $7), while our Summer Chills series, seen by nearly 20,000 people, was priced at an average of $11 per ticket. Anyone can call our box office for information regarding our various discount programs. It is simply unfair to compare the Alley's prices to the cost of attending a show on Broadway, and I regret any implication that our productions are reserved for an elite audience.

Paul Tetreault
Managing Director, Alley Theatre
Houston

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