By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Online readers respond to "War Zoned," by Steve Jansen, June 23:
Good article! If the residents of Glenbrook Valley believe they need such property designations from the Texas Historical Commission, they should follow the application process and guidelines just like everyone else in the state of Texas.
I find it rather doubtful that the historic preservation community across the nation, with their 100-plus-year-old homes steeped in significant history, will be flocking to Houston to cast their eyes on a 50-to-60-year-old home with a Pepto Bismol-pink bathroom.
Historical preservation as a community value is first and foremost a community-education challenge, which may be followed with community ordinances as long as such laws don't make people crazy or bent over in hysterical laughter.
Reject it: I'm just glad that I don't live there. This whole thing stinks to high heaven. If a majority don't want it, then City Council should reject it. It shouldn't even be a question.
All for it: I am a native Houstonian and a Glenbrook Valley resident. I support the historic-preservation ordinance for the neighborhood because, first and foremost, it will offer protection for the architectural integrity of all the homes.
It may not be obvious to most people yet, but the ranch-style home was a very significant architectural development in postwar America. Glenbrook Valley is unusual because so many of the original ranch-style and mid-century modern homes are still intact. The neighborhood has the potential to serve as a very fine example to educate people about the importance of these buildings.
The council's approving the application for the historic district would stimulate a series of positive changes for the residents and the neighborhood. Although perhaps slow at first, the changes to come would include a much greater sense of pride in the neighborhood and strong unity among diverse neighbors, which would lead to the good probability of a cleaner, safer neighborhood with stable value for years to come.
On the subject of trickery or racism to non-English speakers during the collection of petitions, I can say this. I worked on the historic-designation project in Glenbrook Valley from the inception of the idea until we turned the application in last June. It was always of the utmost importance to everyone involved to accommodate non-English speakers. Written communication was always provided in both Spanish and English, and Spanish-speaking volunteers were available to those who needed help understanding the ordinance.
I am half Mexican American. My grandparents were working-class immigrants who never learned English. Providing for Spanish speakers was very important to me personally, and I can honestly say that we made every possible effort to do so.
A few questions: I am all for preservation. But to preserve a plain, ranch-style house is beyond me. If residents want to take the risk, then be my guest. You should have the right to put the restrictions on your property. But why do you want to drag the rest of us with you if we feel it is not the right thing for us? Has anyone learned from all the other fumbles the city has made, especially recently? Do you really want to trust them with this? Are they real estate-investment analysts who know this will increase our property values? Will I have any recourse if values drop because of this? Why not have a community-based preservation effort? And what happened to democracy? Where the people decide?
I have a lot of investments tied into my property, and I choose not to risk it. My background is in finance and economics, and maybe that is not enough for anyone to listen to me. But I refuse to believe that my property is going to be worth more when you are going to subtract from the pool of people who would want to buy a plain old house (that still needs lots of work) because of the restrictions now placed on it.
For the record, just because some happen to side more on the conservative side does not mean they don't care about justice. If there is an injustice for one person, there is an injustice for all. The only witch hunt was the one that took place when those who were vulnerable were preyed upon to get them to sign their rights away without properly informing them about the ordinance and what it entailed.
Online readers comment on "Houston Tow Truck Drivers Are Totally Above the Law," Hair Balls blog, by Craig Malisow, June 23:
This must stop: I hope you guys at the Press stay on this. We have all had our cars towed at one time or another in Houston, and it seems there are no laws governing these idiots. They are rude when you go to get your vehicle. It has to end. It's organized crime.
Not their fault: We stay behind bulletproof glass because of dumbass comments like this. People want to take our lives because they can't read or they went to jail or had a wrecker tow their car — so not our fault. All the fees are regulated by the city, so go to them if you are mad. We do it by the book.
How about this? I'll come and park in your driveway for a couple of days so you can't move your car. I bet you would be ready to call a wrecker then. But I guess in that case it would be okay and wrecker drivers wouldn't be dumbasses anymore. One thing's for sure: You will need us.
Out of control: I used to work at 3400 Montrose, which sits right across the street from the second-most-towed parking lot in the city. There's a woman who sits over there in a purple van and calls the tow trucks when someone parks their car and walks over to the Chinese Consulate.
One day, I took pictures of a tow truck driver breaking into cars he was about to tow — seemingly for no reason at all, actually. When the family who was towed walked out of the consulate, I ran across the street and then drove them over to the Westheimer storefront police station to show the police the pics.
The first officer said it was "perfectly legal." When I asked to talk to another cop, they ran my license. Tow truck drivers in Houston are out of control, have been for a long time, and there is nothing being done to change the behavior.
Above the law: I've seen tow truck drivers race through traffic at 80-plus miles per hour. I have watched them drive down freeway embankments; over medians, curbs and sidewalks; and even on the wrong side of the road. Cops ignore tow truck drivers' behavior to the point that I wonder at times if the cop gets a touch of the tow fees. They can charge you whatever they decide, because no one in city/county government will stand up for you. For 20 years I've read of city efforts to regulate this business, only for proposals to die in massive push-back efforts.
So, succinctly, yes. They are above the law.
Props to Craig Malisow! This is what committing journalism looks like. I agree that you should do a follow-up. Judging by the number of comments, I'd say you've turned over a rock with something under it. Gotta love Hair Balls and Houston Press.