By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Reporter fired after abortion story
By Richard Connelly
Scott Braddock, a respected reporter who has been with the fledgling news radio station KROI since November, has been fired.
Twitter supporters and some fellow reporters have been questioning whether the ax fell because of a Braddock report on Texas's abortion-sonogram law, but he won't go that far.
We caught up with him as he was filling out unemployment forms, and he said station management did not say abortion politics was behind the move.
"It's interesting that that theory's being floated," he said. "But I tend to think people operate in good faith, and what they say is what they mean."
Braddock guest-hosted on Geoff Berg's Partisan Gridlock show on Pacifica station KPFT March 16. He discussed a Texas Observer first-person story about undergoing the mandated sonogram, and played tape of an interview he did for KROI with the author, Carolyn Jones.
While that could be construed by some media outlets as improper — and Braddock says he didn't inform management of his plans to appear on KPFT and play the tape — the reporter says the firing is an "overreaction." (If there's anything in the employment contract forbidding what he did, it's moot — Braddock has not yet signed a contract.)
"The media landscape is changing," he says. "Reporters appear on rightwing talk shows, they appear on leftwing talk shows, they appear on CNN and MSNBC, Fox, everywhere and explain their stories. Anyone who understands what is going on in the world knows there's room for a reporter to be asked about his story by a rightwing talk-show host, by a left-wing talk-show host...There's a difference between spewing opinions and giving analysis."
KROI market manager Doug Abernethy told Hair Balls, "I am not at liberty to discuss [a] personnel decision."
Braddock says part of the problem might be that KROI's owners, Media One, are not used to dealing with news. The chain mostly operates music stations.
"They've never owned a news outlet," he says. "They've never had to deal with a reporter who covers controversies. In fairness to them, they don't know how to do it. So if the firing was an overreaction, maybe it's because they don't know how to deal with these things."
Braddock, 31, has been a reporter for KTRH, Dallas' KRLD, and the CBS Radio network. He's now looking for a new job.
Critics: Walmart Will Make Bad Bridge Worse
By Steve Jansen
Jeff Jackson, director of Responsible Urban Development for Houston, thinks that something apocalyptic could happen to the Yale Street Bridge, especially when construction of the controversial new Heights-area Walmart is completed.
In November, the Texas Department of Transportation performed a study of the circa 1931 bridge, which crosses over White Oak Bayou. (According to the City of Houston's Public Works and Engineering Department, area bridges are inspected biannually via the TxDOT Bridge Inventory, Inspection and Appraisal Program.)
Says Jackson, "When they did the analysis of the bridge — this time with the plans knowing exactly how it was built — it went from a 56 sufficiency rating all the way down to a seven."
On November 23, TxDOT drastically dropped the maximum weight load of the City of Houston-controlled structure from 40,000 pounds and 21,000 pounds for tandem axle vehicles to 8,000 pounds per single axle and 10,000 per tandem axle. In response, the City of Houston banned all commercial trucks and installed signage prohibiting construction travel across the low-rated bridge.
Jackson and members of his group say that more needs to be done.
"One of our big arguments is that it's not enough to put up the signage," says Jackson. "The City has admitted that they don't have the resources to enforce it." Once the feeder roads to the new Walmart are opened, Jackson says that the Depression-era bridge will experience a "double whammy."
"Bottom line is that there are only ten other open permanent bridges in Texas with a sufficiency rating of seven or less. There's no other bridge in Texas with lower sufficiency and inventory ratings and higher average daily traffic than this bridge," says Jackson. "Our group has essentially come to the conclusion that the bridge is one of the worst if not the worst in Texas. It needs to be rehabilitated or completely replaced."
Kenneth Ozuna, district bridge engineer of TxDOT Houston, tells Hair Balls that "the drop in the load rating is why the overall score dropped...but the condition of the bridge did not drop."
As far as plans for a rehabilitation or replacement initiative, Ozuna says nothing is planned "but momentum seems to be building" on a project that, if realized, would be funded through a federal highway bill.
Worried citizen Colton Candler remains skeptical about the safety of the bridge, even after engaging Ozuna in an e-mail exchange. On January 23, Ozuna told Candler that "there are many non-state owned bridges with load ratings below H15" and that the bridge is in "excellent condition for its age."
Says Candler, "There isn't another bridge in Texas that has these low of ratings. Mathematically, it's so close to being shut down that the dead weight of paint or lights — which would be used to beautify the Walmart-area development — would put enough negative impact on the bridge."
Candler and Jackson aren't the only ones demanding that the City of Houston and the TxDOT step up their game.
District 148 state representative Jessica Farrar fears a doomsday scenario in a letter written to Daniel Kreuger, director of Houston's Public Works and Engineering Department. (As of the time this post was published, Kruger hadn't responded to our interview request.)
"If trucks are not allowed on this route, the issue becomes one of enforcement — specifically, whether or not any and all offenders will be caught," writes Farrar. "It will only take one fateful trip over the bridge to create catastrophe."