Building a Case
Warning shot: Your story about the Cohns' battle with Casa Builders ["Buyers' Remorse," by Wendy Grossman, June 20] is a classic example of a company that cares more about profits than about giving customers their money's worth. In my opinion, such shoddy construction is a major reason for the epidemic of mold we are seeing in homes across the country.
I sincerely wish the Cohns all the best in getting the satisfaction they deserve, and I hope that their case serves as a warning to other companies in all industries that may be tempted to shortchange their customers in the name of ever larger profits.
Home-opathic? Thank you for the great article. I am coming up on the one-year anniversary, and builder's warranty expiration, of my new home. I have a closet that smells damp, and after reading your article, it is freaking me out.
I'm not sure where to turn. It's scary to think that your biggest investment could actually make you sick or become worthless, via microorganisms.
Not-so-fine print: I feel for the Cohns about the problems they are having, but they didn't read the fine print when they spent $750,000!
What were they thinking?
This article needs to serve as a warning that your only defense as a consumer is ultimately "Let the buyer beware." All the consumer protection in the world isn't worth the headaches of trying to collect from people who have proved they are not trustworthy.
I've got to say that if I were spending that much to get a home built, I would hire my own inspector to check on each step of the process. If my builder refused to cooperate, I would walk, because I would know he has something to hide. It could be skimping on material, it could be incompetent workers, it could be anything -- but if a builder won't let you watch, it's because he (or she) has something to hide. You can take that to the bank.
Also: Hire an attorney to read the "fine" print in high-dollar contracts. Unfortunately, the Cohns signed their rights away. Don't let that happen to you.
J.H. (Jim) Stevens III
Bitter dreams: Mary Cohn, the owner of the defective Casa Builders home, is not the worst nightmare for the builder, Keith Wagner.
She is now the Texas Builders Association's worst nightmare.
Casa Builders had an opportunity to resolve this situation by simply buying the house back, letting Mary's family move on, and taking as much time as necessary to fix the house and resell it. But Wagner refused, and now the Texas Builders Association can blame him for what is coming in the next few months.
As president of the Houston Chapter of HomeOwners for Better Building, I welcome Mary and her family to our organization. With her help, we are going to change the laws and make sure this never happens again to another home buyer.
John R. Cobarruvias
Tough to Swallow
Role reversal: Dysphagia was listed as one of Carlos Coy's many "disabilities" ["South Park Monster," by John Nova Lomax, June 6]. I nearly suffered a bout of dysphagia myself, especially when Coy's family trotted out the hoary excuse of a broken family to explain Coy's criminal behavior.
South Park Mexican, the brave little gangsta who cried like a baby on the stand, is just another petty criminal whose "street cred" couldn't save him. Perhaps he'll learn in prison what it's like to be a scared 13-year-old girl.
Ban the band: A cover story on South Park Mexican was enough, don't you think? Why review his latest bad album, especially in Local Rotation [by Craig D. Lindsey, June 13], when there are so many good, hardworking bands in Houston with new releases that need the Houston Press?
SPM is no longer relevant or interesting, and you are wasting space with him. Try to find some of the awesome bands brimming in Houston and give them some space in your paper. And not just a Houston Press award, but real praise and/or criticism.
These are the bands that, if nurtured by your newspaper, could just possibly put Houston on the national scene. The only way our bands can make it nationally is to make it here first, and the best way to do that is with a caring local arts paper.
I dream of a day when I open up the pages of the Press (or some other local paper) and find that the Houston media cares about well-written pop and rock music and dedicates time and space to the local scene.
Will you be the caring entity that helps bands?
Jason Smith, Strangelight
Editor's note: Hey -- help's already on the way. Even before Smith's letter arrived, a review on Strangelight was in hand for this week's Local Rotation.
Noisy neighbors: If the residents of downtown's many lofts and condos were so enchanted by these New York-style living spaces, then perhaps they would like to spend a night or two in New York. Only then would they know the true meaning of "noise pollution" ["Facing the Music," by George Flynn, June 20].
Why would one want to live in this style but still want the dead calm of the suburbs? Pick one! This is a city that's only gonna get louder, so love it or move out to The Woodlands with the rest of the zombies.
And by the way, I seem to recall Spy being there before many of these residences.
Name withheld by request
Cleveland class? Memo to city leaders:
Great. Let's kill the music downtown for the developers. Then when the impending housing bust arrives, we'll bail them out with taxpayer funds. They already closed down the Washington Avenue scene for the condo clones. Go ahead and pour more fuel on Houston's fiery reputation as an unfriendly music town.
Houston has quickly overtaken Cleveland as the dullest big city in America. No wonder we're the fattest city in the nation. There's nothing left to do here but eat. Vive Townes Van Zandt!
Spy right: You failed to mention that the Spy nightclub, of which I have been an employee since the day it opened, has been in existence since 1997. It is one of the original businesses to locate to the downtown area, even before the whole "revitalization" process was well under way.
The site of the Bayou Lofts, of which Mr. Menez is a resident, was not even under consideration for renovation at that time. Mr. Menez bought his loft knowing there were nightclubs and restaurants across the street. He should have taken that into consideration.
If he had the $300,000-plus asking price to purchase a loft, then he could have chosen a better location. I also work at the Medical Center and know that there are tons of places closer to his job. He should have put the same effort into researching the area that he has put into complaining about a neighborhood that was already established long before his arrival.
Spy nightclub should not be blamed for the stupidity of others.
Inequities in the system: I noticed in your column about getting around the legal appointment system that you twice referred to it as a "rotation" [The Insider, by Tim Fleck, June 20]. I can't speak for sure about juvenile or misdemeanor courts, but the felony appointments are supposedly a "random" draw rather than a rotation.
My attempts to discover how random selection ensures more evenhanded opportunity have been unsuccessful. I am interested because I am a criminal defense lawyer with more than ten years' experience, from death penalty on down, yet I have been called fewer than five times since January 1 -- and two of those calls came on one day.
Meanwhile, I see the same lawyers getting appointments every single day (some of the most inept practitioners I know are bragging they're making more money than ever). Since I am one of those people who wouldn't win the door prize if my name was one of only two in the hat, I had concerns about a "random" system that seem to have been well founded.
If you believe there are judges who refuse to appoint tenacious lawyers (and I am beginning to), then aggressive lawyers will receive appointments only if their names come up on the screen in those few courts not intimidated by them. Whereas formerly a handful of courts could keep a mouthy lawyer busy, that handful is now off-limits while the others can continue to ignore the spoilers.
So it seems Senator Ellis's goal is thwarted, but for reasons he didn't foresee. (He and others appeared to work from the premise that no criminal court was willing to appoint educated and dedicated lawyers, but this was untrue. Unfortunately, competent defense lawyers are becoming an endangered species, whether hired or appointed, but that's another story.)
Name withheld by request
Jus' boycott: Good article ["Laying Siege," by Wendy Grossman, June 13]. It seems that Mr. Larsen's beef with the Jus' Stuff store is that it signifies big or bigger business encroaching upon the last fringe of bohemian society. Montrose is definitely a place where artists, shops, vendors and people of all ages cannot be cookie-cutter average in their pursuits of the dreams -- whatever they may be -- and be accepted for their desires just as they are.
I enjoyed the notation that you made of Mrs. Lay's storefront, that it did not take out a grassroots wheat stand. Someone had to leave, and someone had the desire to sell (or lease) to her.
Living in Houston through college and beyond (UH class of 2000), I've found that people shop (or browse) at a store because they get good stuff, get a good price and enjoy the experience. When this stops happening, they will stop going there.
I hope Mr. Larsen gets what he wants -- it seems if he does not wish Jus' Stuff to be there, then he and his supporters should not shop there.
Outside the Box
Some like it live: If you really would rather watch movies on video than go to the theater ["Inanimate Objects," by Lee Williams, June 13] then give up your day job as a theater reviewer.
I love the theater and would rather go see a show than stay at home by myself and watch a big glowing box.
New York, New York
Dropped in the Grease
Lard have mercy: Has the Houston Press hired Gary Michaels as a restaurant reviewer or a fiction writer [Hot Plate, June 20]? He proclaims the meatless Tex-Mex archetypal food of El Paraiso Mexican Restaurant. He promises no lard in the refried beans and no chicken stock in the rice.
As a lifelong vegetarian, I am always on the lookout for a rare new restaurant option in this meat-hungry town. I immediately put down my copy of the Houston Press and headed straight to the Montrose-area restaurant, salivating for some vegetarian-friendly Tex-Mex food.
Imagine my disappointment when I asked the incredulous waitress to confirm that there was indeed no lard, bacon or chicken stock used in the beans or rice. "Of course we use lard in everything," she said, as I meekly replaced the hot greasy tortilla chip into the basket she had just placed on the table in front of me.
Perhaps Mr. Michaels had his Mexican restaurants confused. If so, please tell me where I can find the classic stuff without the animal fat.
Editor's note: The management of the restaurant swears that the waitress was wrong and that it uses only 100 percent vegetable oil.
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Cut the race references: I noticed the reference to the "white boys" in your recent article [Playbill, by John Nova Lomax, June 13] and also your using "black" in several places in this piece. Please be more careful in the use of language so as not to upset the loyal fans of your music articles.
Harry A. Taylor
Editor's note: Consider this not just friendly advice but family advice: Taylor is Lomax's grandfather.