By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Manual Labor Waste
I laughed out loud reading about the "desk manual" program at HISD [Insider, by Tim Fleck, April 22] until I got to the part about ten employees and a half-million-dollar-a-year budget to administer this insanity -- a sick, sad combination of Dilbert, Saturday Night Live and The Twilight Zone.
Our schools are falling down, HISD is always begging for bond issues, and this is how our money is spent? The story is hilarious, but it is the kids (and the taxpayers) who are the real losers.
Obviously Paige is a total flake who is completely out of touch with reality and far too irresponsible to be running our school system. Did the school board actually know about this, and did its members approve these expenditures? If so, they need to go, too. You have done Houstonians a huge favor by exposing this absurdity. Now give us phone numbers of board members and meeting times so we can all protest this ridiculous waste of time and money.
Houstonians need to get on "The Northbound Train" (get with the program) to make sure that Paige and every member of the school board who approved this craziness get dumped into the "Cruel Sea" (sacrificed for the good of the organization) as soon as possible.
Promising a Lot
The parking problems you described ["No Parking," by Margaret L. Briggs, April 29] are just the beginning. There is no doubt that adequate convenient parking for new downtown businesses is critical for success. At least retail, restaurants and club owners have somebody on their side (downtown Historic District's new division).
Unfortunately, I haven't heard much said about what will happen to the folks who will have to continue to come to the northern edge of downtown and try to park to take care of business -- whether to get a friend or relative out of jail, go to divorce court, traffic court, pay taxes or pay child support, not to mention the hundreds of folks called for jury service every day.
And what about several thousand Harris County employees? Is anyone concerned that they will all have to pay higher parking fees and will find it increasingly difficult to even find a place to park? Judge Eckels announced plans to build a county parking garage of 1,200 spots. Well, that's a start.
I really think downtown planners are anticipating that everyone will drive over to the Astrodome and catch a ride downtown on the "light rail!" Oh, well, the streets will be well lit and lined with trees, and we'll discover what a pleasant way of life that can be.
Name withheld by request
I don't understand. Why are the simplest problems made to seem so complex?
So, downtown Houston has a parking "problem." From what I see when I go downtown, Houston is one big parking "opportunity."
Why not repave the spaces set up for parallel parking around Market Square into diagonal parking spaces, put in new parking meters and thereby:
1. Provide revenue for the city.
2. Keep valet parkers from fighting with business owners.
3. Make surface parking lots obsolete.
4. Create development opportunities for the owners of surface lots who are not currently compelled to develop their land.
5. Create more pedestrian traffic overall and a more active downtown, with the added parking and new development.
Your usual insight and thorough research was compromised in "Digging Up the Dirt" [April 29] by Bob Burtman.
I've interviewed with Burtman on several occasions and usually enjoy reading his articles. Unfortunately, his statement that my previous "office funneled public works payments and should have known how the finances were jimmied" is inaccurate.
Payments are initiated by the operating departments, in this case Public Works and Engineering, upon invoice from a Council-approved contractor, and forwarded to the City Controller, not Finance and Administration, for verification and payment.
I look forward to your future insightful and accurate articles on local government.
Deputy Chief Administrative Officer
Mixing It Up
A letter by S. Whitmarsh ["Ethnic Cleansing," April 22] poses an interesting dilemma in our society. By the content of the letter, it seems that Whitmarsh is not racist and merely wishes to open up a dialog, something that can be educational and beneficial to all races.
I am a history student at UH who is married to an African-American woman. While I do not think this is an ideal situation for everyone, it does work out for many people.
We have subjugated vast quantities of peoples during colonialistic and imperialistic times. The quantity of whites has never been as physically important as the quantity of the wealth they control. Ask almost any black man in the U.S. if he feels whites have an advantage here, and he will say yes.
As far as race mixing goes, we are already mixed. You are arguing to preserve something that has never existed. There was mixing of blacks, whites and other races in the distant and recent past.
There is nothing wrong with biodiversity as long as you give people the right to choose. Don't infringe upon other people's right to "mix."
Finally, the whole argument of genetic and cultural survival is specious. Genetics relies upon change, not sameness. We all have unique characteristics to offer, but offering means accepting as well. It's a two-way street. The interaction of the races can enrich us all, not take away from one or the other.
In reading S. Whitmarsh's letter it was apparent that she or he did not understand genetics or culture. In terms of genetics, each race does not have what Whitmarsh describes as "unique characteristics and qualities, manifested not only on the obvious physical level, but spiritually as well."
On the physical level, Whitmarsh seems to be focusing only on skin color. What is the cutoff point where one race begins and other one ends? Race is a socially constructed concept because we decide what traits are important for categorization and we do it for political, social, economic and historical reasons.
The writer confuses genetics with social and cultural inheritance. The person assumes that behavioral differences are genetically based when there is no evidence for that conclusion. People of many different backgrounds, including African-Americans and Maoris, are great opera singers. But not too many whites are great jazz singers. Who is the biologically challenged? The issue is really cultural and behavioral, and not biological.
All cultures are continually changing. Interactions between the Serbs and Albanians will not reduce biodiversity and cause cultural extinction. Rather, they will increase such diversity and promote cultural exchange and hopefully understanding.
Department of Anthropology
University of Houston
I'd like to congratulate Russell Contreras for finding his niche in the world of journalism (and the Press for being that niche). I have been reading his work since I arrived at UH. His infuriating, incendiary rhetoric on the Daily Cougar was partially what prompted me to become a columnist.
However, since he became a regular at the Houston Press, I have found his writing to be more insightful, informative and convincing than I have ever seen him before. I actually look forward to his writing!
Keep up the good work! Both of you.
R. Alex Whitlock
Thanks for your column [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly]. I thought I was the only person who threw up every morning. I like to watch the Today show, and so I am a captive viewer of Channel 2's "news" and, worst of all, Chuck George's weather and adenoidal voice. The pensive looks, the feigned concern, the stupid jokes and forced laughter. I hate them all. Have they never heard of CNN?
You asked in your column [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly, April 22] whether there ever has been a taxpayer prosecuted because his return was postmarked April 16.
Late filing is not a criminal offense, but it is subject to penalties and interest. The IRS has indeed penalized taxpayers for late filing. A case reported in the Journal of Accountancy in May 1997 may give you a better understanding of the reason most CPAs advise their clients to use certified mail for returns and extensions.
Judy Gray Johnson, CPA
Roots of Learning
The question posed in Linda Skiles's letter to Superintendent Paige, as quoted in your column on the proposed relocation of the Houston School for the Performing and Visual Arts ["Cutting Class," by Margaret Downing, April 15], is right on the mark:
"Why teach elementary school children about the environment, when in high school you teach them it's okay to tear down a forest if someone gives you enough money to do it?"
The principles of composition and esthetics, as well as an understanding of the humanities as taught to musicians and artists, are germane to environmental preservation and sound community planning. Gutting the pristine forest on West 11th Street to build a school that would be much better off in a performance district or museum district would only reproduce the worst features of what teachers and students of the arts so often criticize.
Pay Up or Else
Margaret Downing's column about the school site (not park) owned by HISD in Timbergrove was as weak and whining an article as has ever been in the Press. HISD would prefer to build the new school closer to the arts district but does not have a site.
If the tight-ass residents of Timbergrove do not want a school on the school site, buy it! Assuming the site is worth $10 a square foot, this would only cost each of the 1,234 households of Timbergrove $40 per month. Dave Dyer and his wife, Lorraine Cherry-Dyer, should spend their efforts trying to get their community association to buy the land and not asking that HISD taxpayers give it to them. I don't believe Timbergrove residents will pay, and they should not ask the rest of us to do it for them.
Quit your whining and make a cash offer. It's the American way.
Sky's the Limit
Raining Sky [Letters, "Overparked," April 29] believes I have no grounds to doubt the accuracy of the proposed $30-million budget for the new Houston School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
At the civic meeting where representatives of HISD and HSPVA were present, no drawings, program requirements, cost takeoffs or square footage were provided because none exist. Representatives could not even answer the simple question concerning the approximate size of development, nor provide any detailed information concerning the budget.
It should be noted that when questioned HISD representatives specifically stated that they would not stake their personal reputation on the accuracy of the cost estimate and further described the construction budget as "preliminary at best."
I would just like to remind readers that this budget was prepared pro bono and that, historically, you usually get what you pay for.
Regarding her response [Letters, "Can't See the Forest," April 29] to Margaret Downing's article, Lori Westfall's statement that "no one seems to have a problem when it comes to sports" is sadly mistaken.
Residents and youth in Fourth Ward have protested the downtown stadium and related development that has caused mass destruction of their historic neighborhood, including a whole park of trees the children had asked to preserve.
It is nothing less than insulting to spend millions of dollars on stadia while local residents do not even have simple ballparks where the children can play. The remaining park areas have been exposed to contamination from gasoline tanks stored by the city, which never warned the public of these hazards.
Westfall insists that children's education is more important than trees. But if we don't teach respect for the community and the environment, what good is education? Instead of teaching our children that whoever owns the land has the right to destroy it, it is better to send the message that taxpayer-funded agencies like HISD have a responsibility to the public that they serve.
Why did I keep going to college to get two master's degrees when all I needed to become an athletic director/head football coach was six months of correspondence courses and experience as a shoe salesman ["Winning in the Worst Way," by Tim Fleck, April 15]?
Thank you for exposing what many of us knew was a joke all along.
Darn! We should have submitted four more entries [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly, April 15]!
Director of Programming
KUHF-88.7 FM Radio
Some think they will "escape" gays when they reach Heaven [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly, April 1], but Judgment Day itself will be interesting. Perhaps those to be judged the most harshly will be those who, while on earth, invoked the name of Jesus (always on the side of the oppressed) to torment gays.
I enjoy reading the Houston Press, but I don't understand the need to bash the Houston Chronicle. If one of its writers does a puff piece on Garth Brooks, so what [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly, April 8]?
And, although I enjoy reading gossip about celebrities, I don't see the political relevance of Mr. Bush's broken engagement of 30 years ago [Insider, by Tim Fleck, March 25]. I see no similarities between this and Mr. Clinton's alleged and admitted activities while he was a public servant.
Janet Rice Droptini
It appears your qualities are surely needed in the world of journalism ["The Fix Is In," February 25, "Adding It All Up," March 4, by Shaila Dewan]. Texas is not unique. In fact, as a parent, I began to look at Rhode Island's school "improvement and/or reform" plans and was quite appalled.
Parents who became aware of the "dumbing down" in their school districts were only labeled "anti-public education" or "right-wing attackers" and so on. The majority actually were Democrats, independents or had no political affiliation.
Great job in reporting what is and isn't happening in the name of "school improvement."
Richmond, Rhode Island
I saw a premiere of Cookie's Fortune. I loved it. Your review ["Feel-good Fortune, by Andy Klein, April 8] was right on the mark!
Amen on the Valley Song review ["Tender But Timid," by Lee Williams, April 22]. Where was the fire?
Happy with Life
I went to see Life and then read your review ["Lifeless, by Hal Hinson, April 15]. I totally disagree.
Murphy and Lawrence's relationship can be compared to that in Grumpy Old Men.
The comedy was not as hard-hitting as some Murphy or Lawrence fans would expect, but that was due to the deeper issues that accompanied it. You can't be totally hilarious when your youth, freedom and dignity are all taken from you. The actors still managed to maintain a positive middle ground.
Quite a few other people thought you were wrong and maybe a bit biased.
La Tonia O. Austin
I don't know who you are listening to, but George Strait cannot live long enough to play to the millions of people who want to hear him live and listen to his recordings ["The Strait Dope," by Bob Ruggiero, April 15]. We "Easterners" are driving seven and eight hours just to see the screen.
We only want to hear his old songs and hope he sticks with the past. If his tickets were $100 and he played 200 concerts a year, they would all be sold out.
How's That Again?
How dare you be so negative about George Strait. I think you should listen to fans of his latest music. You definitely need a hearing aid. I'm over 50, so this is not some young kid telling you. This is some of the best work George has done. But then, he can't do a bad song.
We can barely remember hearing a few of these bands, but don't Sly and James Brown belong on the list?
Nick Cooper and Jeff Nunnally
Pretty good article on the Beach Boys ["Beach Gents," by Paul J. MacArthur, April 15]. I hope that Brian and Al get back with the group. I would die for that. Or that they would at least get together to do some albums. Since Carl's death there is a void that will be hard to fill. Was at Brian's concert in Chicago; it was very good. I was impressed.
As an NPR news reporter and a Beach Boys freak, thanks for the in-depth, logical review of the Beach Boys and their various forthcoming tours.
These days so many things are taken at face value. Thanks for breaking the mold and for being original on your reporting, not just duplicating someone else's efforts.
Thanks for the excellent article on Marshall Allen and the Sun Ra Arkestra ["A Jazz Odyssey," by David Wilcox, April 8]. A nice introduction to Ra for those who don't know of him and an informative and pleasing article for those of us who do.
Very informative article about Marshall Allen. It really conveys the spirit of the music.
The Finnish Line
I was just wondering, does Anthony Mariani have a personal grudge against Buckcherry [Rotation, February 25]? His review of its CD seemed to ooze a huge, deep-seated resentment toward the band. So they are blatant Kiss ripoffs and Kiss lawyers will sue any minute now? How come Kiss had Buckcherry as a special guest on its recent European tour?
I personally had my first contact with Buckcherry at its show with Kiss right here in Finland.
The "Lit Up" riff is a pretty straightforward lift from "Cold Gin," but the Buckcherry CD has some of the most energetic and contagious music I've heard.