Letters 08-10-2000

Pickett Fencing

As a founding member of the Texas Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, I want to thank the Press and writer Brad Tyer for being the first news organization in Texas to expose the current threats to Texas public beaches and the Open Beaches Act ["This Sand Is Your Sand," July 13]. The article did a fine job of presenting the various sides of a complex problem. I understand that his portrayal of the issues as a kind of mano a mano Texas shoot-out might enhance your readers' enjoyment of such a long article, but framing the debate in this way downplays a couple of important points.

Mr. Pickett's public statements and actions both have fallen within the chapter's mission as an environmental organization, and have received support from an overwhelming majority of the general membership on every vote concerning chapter policy on open beach/erosion issues. He's got a few hundred responsible, property-owning, voting grown-ups standing right beside him.

Surfrider generally favors beach renourishment using federal and state funds, while opposing breakwaters, because every so-called solution still requires pumping sand. Just pumping sand without building structures to slow the rate at which sand must be replaced may be more expensive than building miles of offshore breakwaters to retard sand loss. But we think turning the ocean and the beach into lakefront property is like killing the patient with the cure. Besides, Texas beaches could be rebuilt for years for the cost of a couple of fighter planes, so it's not like we're talking about "real" money by federal or state government standards.

Our members take seriously their mission as stewards of the Texas coastline, but we need help. Thanks again for bringing these issues to the public's attention.

Jeff Hooton
Houston

Your article was very interesting. It is a shame that your reporter used as primary sources two people who have such a vendetta toward families who own houses along the coast that they will intentionally mislead in order to buttress their anti-property-rights agenda.

Ellis Pickett is well known along our beach. When he finds a mess, he doesn't help clean it up, he photographs it. When he gets the ear of a reporter, he is not above misstating the facts.

Mr. Pickett and his friends pay little or nothing toward the servicing of the Porta-Cans along the beach (nor do they contribute very much toward picking up the trash). But the Porta-Can that he took your reporter to has been verifiably cleaned every week this spring, and starting May 26, it has been cleaned twice each week.

The other source, a profane, wealthy lobbyist, has had a decades-long vendetta against families who own property along the Gulf Coast. If the government wants somebody's land, it can take it. But by law, it is required to fairly reimburse that person.

I would agree with your reporter that it would be helpful if your readers would call their elected officials. And when they call, I hope they will ask their elected officials to balance the rights of Texans' ownership of their property with Texans' rights to enjoy our beaches.

Overall, a well-researched article. It's a shame that your reporter relied on these two sources, and that his article ended up suggesting that Surfside property owners were somehow eroding the intent of the Open Beaches Act. That is not our intent, and the law happens to be on our side.

Brooks Porter
Houston

Magic Bus

The sentence "Bus service is available for about one-third of the students, but that doesn't mean they take advantage of it" summarizes the crux of the Bellaire High School parking problem ["Spaced Out," by Kamilah Duggins, July 20]. The most cost-effective and efficient way to transport students to the school is through the busing system.

Schools cannot continue to provide the real estate needed to accommodate the growing demands of students who drive their own cars to school. To provide one parking space for each senior to drive his or her own car to school is a waste of limited school resources.

A major reason for the rise in students driving to school is peer pressure. It isn't glamorous or popular for a student, especially a senior, to take the bus, but popular trends should not drive school budgets. The article's example of the student whose father has to lose an hour of work time to drive her, yet who lives only minutes from Bellaire High, is a sad example of how the cost-effective solution of busing has been ignored.

Having students use the bus is a simple solution, and by insinuating that the residents don't want the students parking in their neighborhood because of racial and economic prejudices only polarizes the issue and makes it unnecessarily more controversial.

Chee-Hahn Hung
Pearland

Body Work

When will Texas and its board of regents take a good, close look at the UT Health Science Center at Houston [ Insider, by Tim Fleck, July 27]?

Despite its being an academic institution, the center's employees (particularly classified staff) pay dearly for speaking their minds -- even (especially?) when it concerns such subjects as sexual harassment, discrimination and mismanagement.

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