By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Business As Usual
Your recent series on the mismanagement, lax oversight and fraud that permeate the city of Houston's public works programs ["Easy Street," by Bob Burtman, October 30, November 13 and November 27] is a most welcome and, I might add, long, long overdue expose. It is a sad commentary on the local media that the Press is such a lonely voice in bringing this to light, because, as a person who has been involved in this work from several angles, I can tell you that this type of thing has gone on for many years, certainly predating the era of Lanier, Schindewolf et al. This is not to say, however, that things are probably not even worse than they were under past administrations.
Please understand this one basic fact: The poor record of inspections is based not on incompetencies of the inspections, but rather on political policy. In other words, corners are deliberately cut so that more projects can be done, to the greater glory of our mayor, City Council, Commissioners Court, etc. City inspections are not supposed to "make noise," and for the most part are regarded as jokes by contractors and people legitimately concerned with quality, such as testing labs.
Keep up the good work, guys! Without the Press, I feel that none of these abuses would ever be brought to light.
Name withheld by request
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. His real name is Mayor Bob! That is, if you want a new sports stadium, an overpass/exit to your land development, perhaps a hotel or a sports arena named after your company ... or maybe a sweet-heart deal on a city golf course, a big consulting contract or to make millions redeveloping the Third Ward or downtown at taxpayers' expense.
Roy and Louie look like Boy Scouts compared to this administration.
Down a Hole in Montrose
Thanks for your good series on the abuses in the Public Works Department. I have personally observed the waste and mismanagement this department produces. I live in the Montrose area, where a lot of street projects are going on. During the course of the last eight months, I have watched work on a four-block area of Dunlavy from Richmond to Alabama. During that time, the Public Works Department has been laying new sewer lines by digging, at different times, three major holes in the street on the scale of ten feet in diameter and 20, maybe even 30 feet deep. After one month, these holes were filled in and asphalted over. They then proceeded to dig another series of holes at exactly the same spots! The holes in this second series were longer, and a lot less deep, but why weren't the two jobs done all at once?!
The only open drainage ditches I know of in the entire western Inner Loop area, outside the Heights, exist in two of the four blocks along Dunlavy that were being worked on. Yet when the dust settled and the work was "done," the open drainage ditches were still there. I'm still waiting for them to clean up all the dirt and mud that has collected along all the curbs around my house due to the "work" they did.
During this time, they did something that I really want to hear a reason for. Over a two-block area of Alabama Street, starting at Dunlavy and going west, they ripped up the asphalt of the westbound lane of the street. They replaced this asphalt with gravel mixed with sand. The traffic going across the gravel-sand mixture made a dense cloud that was not very pleasant to drive through or to breathe. A few weeks later, they re-asphalted the street -- though no other work had been done in the meantime. The most astonishing thing was that the street was in good shape: They didn't need to tear it up, and they didn't tear it up to get to something underneath the road, for maintenance. The only logical conclusion I can see is that it was done strictly for getting money for a "job" -- even though the "job" was meaningless and a gross waste of taxpayers' money.
Bryan K. Gammon
Jimmie the Fox
One would be a fool to believe that Jimmie Schindewolf's mismanagement of the Public Works Department is anything but deliberate. I wonder how many of the contractors who have pocketed millions of dollars in cost overruns show up on Lanier's campaign-contribution list? This is like putting a fox in the hen house to pass out the chickens.
Go See Hotze
Great piece by Fleck [The Insider, "So Gracious, So Kind," November 20]: To get elected to be a judge in Harris County, you don't have to know the law, you just have to have the right backing so you can disregard the law based on the plebiscite's "mob rule." It's a crying shame that folks don't take the time to know who they are putting on these benches. However, if it's their lives, then of course they'll scream, Where are my constitutional rights? Go see Hotze. He'll punch that "ticket" for you too!