Best Beefs and Bouquets
Sandwich job: Your Best Contribution to Downtown Redevelopment [Best of Houston, September 23] commented that most light rail accidents were "usually the car's fault." I take issue with this.
I was in a line of cars heading south on Fannin toward Old Spanish Trail recently, when the light at Galen and Fannin turned red. The cars in front of me stopped for the light. I could not move forward because the back of my car would have been on the railroad track. I could not back up because there were cars behind me all the way to Holcombe. Then I see the railroad gate going down 30 yards behind me and the train coming. The passing train missed the front of my car by a foot.
If you happen to be in a line of cars when the red light comes on, you are trapped, my friends. Between the place where the gate comes down and the track is located, you could fit five or six cars. This is an accident just waiting to happen.
Gray matter: To my secret admirers (on the assumption you were not poking fun with Best Brain), I am flattered, appreciative, amused -- and quite unconvinced. I will count on the kindness of friends who know better not to say so in my presence.
Name lore: I read your Best Empanadas item and was blown away by the misinformation. You stated that "when you name your business after yourself, you better be good at it." That restaurant is not named after anyone.
The story goes that the original name was Marini's (after Marcelo and Pelusa Marini), and was later changed to Marine's because of a bad partnership. The original Marini's (which started in Montrose in the '70s) is back (in a new location in Cinco Ranch) and better than I can remember. Please find the original Marini's and you will see how "when you name a business after yourself, they are good at it!"
Jumping for joy: A huge thank you! I can't tell you how surprised and honored I was to be named one of the Best Dancers. Many thanks again, and see you at the ballet.
Overstepping: It's most appropriate to recognize Dominic Walsh Dance Theater for its contribution to the Houston arts scene [Best Modern Dance Company], but please do not confuse your readers by calling what DWDT stages "modern dance." It is contemporary dance (contemporary ballet, specifically), not modern dance, and the distinction is not trivial. "Modern dance" refers to a long-standing tradition of rebelling against the ballet aesthetic of pretty lines and pirouettes, against the notion that viewing a performance should be an act of adoration and awe, and against the idea that movement should be derived primarily from a finite number of court steps and classical body positions.
DWDT, according to Mr. Walsh's own statements, utilizes classical technique and aesthetics in a contemporary manner to explore contemporary themes -- the very definition of contemporary ballet.
I have the highest respect for what DWDT is trying to do; however, I think it's important to not lose sight of what "modern dance" is really all about, especially when there are so many modern dance artists in Houston working so tirelessly to expose new audiences to the differences.
Louie Saletan, managing director
Falling Star: I love reading the Best of Houston issues, but I almost choked when Star Pizza showed up as Best Pizzeria -- again.
I like Star Pizza, but they cannot make a pie stay dry. The bottom goes soggy almost immediately. Have you people never been to Biba's Greek Pizza? What about Collina's? Frank's Pizza downtown? All of these places are better than Star Pizza.
On the rocks: I have been a faithful reader of your publication for years now. I must finally voice a negative opinion. Your choice of Best Bartender makes my bowels quiver in spastic disgust. As a patron of bars in the Loop area, I have found the "help" at Front Porch to be poor to excellent.
Your choice cannot compare to the hordes of talented bartenders in the Midtown and downtown areas. I beg you to retract your award and seriously do your homework. Your selection is a spit in the face of all hardworking professionals who have come to earn the admiration of their customers.
Bar none: Are you kidding? Best Bartender?
And 'tude?! She's one of the crankiest people I've ever met. A pissed-off order-taker at best. This pick has diluted the credibility of the Press.
Dialing up: Excellent to hear you plugged KPFT 90.1 -- Houston's only community radio station -- as Best Radio Station. I had abandoned the Houston Press for the Free Press, but I'll start picking them both up. Thanks.
Stream of Conscience
Wilderness ravagers: Well done, Margaret Downing ["Keeping It Real," September 16]. You did a commendable job covering all sides of this contentious debate regarding land use. I am an Aggie, Texas master naturalist and environmental science teacher who has spent almost my whole life in southeast Texas.
In those 40 years I have seen too many forests plowed into, meadows run across and riverbanks made sterile by the actions of thoughtless, heedless thrill seekers on ATVs.
I simply have never understood the appeal of these machines. It certainly is not a desire to be out and enjoy nature! It is simply impossible to hear any birds, and impossible to stop and smell the flowers you've just annihilated under your wheels and choked with your fumes.
It's also impossible to catch any fish when the nesting habitat is being scooped with tire tracks and polluted with oil, gas and diesel. No, the appeal seems to come from a desire to subdue and conquer, an innate desire to bring civilization's noise and pollution to the last remaining scraps of wilderness that exist in this, one of the most densely populated parts of the state.
The scars from four-wheeling escapades lie like gaping wounds upon the land and the water, becoming channels for erosion, avenues for pollution and, ultimately, gouged-out boulevards of destruction for the wildlife and wilderness these folks ostensibly are out to enjoy.
David F. Henderson
Up a creek: Your article is an unjustified, insulting and scurrilous denigration of ATV riders, people of whom you know nothing. I am a 67-year-old scientist. I ride an ATV. ATV riders are drawn from a wide spectrum of society. However, to you and Ms. Lorenz, we are all "Bubbas."
The waters of Spring Creek are brown because of suspended colloidal humus and clay that come from the land that the creek drains.
Unlike what is stated in the article, SB 155 defines a navigable waterway as "one having an average width of 30 feet from mouth or confluence up" -- an important detail, as the status of Spring Creek is likely to be hotly contested.
Drainage from developed areas causes varying levels of water pollution and oxygen depletion so that the creek is not hospitable for aquatic life. During heavy rains, a variety of industrial and domestic garbage is deposited on its banks. The latter is cleaned up by volunteer groups of those "Bubbas" that you so despise. I have yet to see one shred of credible scientific evidence that ATV riding is, in any way, causing significant damage to the creek's environment.
As a journalist, you have the privilege of having your work published, but that privilege carries with it the obligation to be correctly informed, truthful and objective. I do not think that what you wrote meets these criteria.
Hummer bummer: It is absolutely astounding how shortsighted people are. Destroying something today so that it will not be here tomorrow seems to be simply okay if you have a Hummer. What your article does not address and would be of no interest to the Hummer and ATV Bubbas of the world is the subtle destruction of habitat.
Noise during the day is disruptive to mammals, birds, amphibians, fish and other wildlife. Many animals rest during the day; baby animals rest nearly all day. The creatures that we tree huggers love so well have fewer places where they can exist. Driving them from one location is acceptable if there is a someplace else to which they can go. We are running out of those "someplace elses" for them.
There is no "right" to destroy. It does not come as an attachment to your driver's license -- even if you have a Hummer or an ATV.
Crotch-driven: Thank you for the article on the ATVers and Spring Creek. The destruction is being done by ATV people who seem to be happy only when they have something roaring and vibrating under their pants and are tearing things up.
Spring Creek and its environs constitute the largest and most pristine wilderness in the Houston area and promise a great future for people who truly enjoy nature and don't just want to destroy it. It is a unique place so close to this great metropolitan center.
National Geographic magazine says ATVs have become the greatest threat to our national parks. A Hill Country camper I met watched one of them, then she said, "Those are people with small body parts, and they have to compensate." I think that gets pretty close to the heart of the problem.
Carmine A. Stahl
Best deal for the city: I found your article on the city of Houston energy contract to be inaccurate and misleading ["Business as Usual," by Sarah Fenske, September 9].
Foremost, the selection of the General Land Office was based on consultation with our outside energy consultant and our determination to get the best electric rate for the city. As indicated in the consultant's memos and in your article, the lowest price offering to the city was provided by the GLO. It is my firm belief that entering into a contract with the GLO, and doing so by April 16 to secure the lowest price, was in the best interest of the city of Houston.
The article is misleading regarding the role of Reliant Energy Solutions. Reliant did not submit a proposal, and Reliant is not the city's REP. Reliant has an existing contractual relationship with the GLO. However, the contract does not require that the Reliant and GLO relationship remain intact. It allows the GLO to provide service with another firm, as well as step-in provisions that allow Reliant to assume the contract if the GLO fails to fulfill its obligations with the REP.
Your statement is completely incorrect that "Reliant was offering a discount" if the contract was executed within a certain time frame. Reliant did not make such an offer because Reliant did not submit a proposal. No discounts were offered by any of the short-listed participants. They were all allowed to include a risk factor that would increase their price if the city was unable to execute a contract by April 16. Both the GLO and TXU Energy Services chose to include a risk factor, whereas Constellation New Energy (CNE) did not.
Your statement is inaccurate and misleading that "the city's consultants finally reached their conclusion" that CNE was the best for the job. Under the previous director and without assurance that the city would secure the contract before April 16, the consultant concluded, "In CDM's opinion, the city should consider both the GLO and the CNE Best and Final Proposals." The consultant informed the city that the GLO offered the lowest price contingent upon a contract by April 16.
I can assure you that, unlike the quote from Stephen Brownell, I have no knowledge of any dark deals or smoke-filled rooms.
The city's process was fair, successful and proper. It resulted in firm pricing from three of the state's largest and most qualified REPs, all of which had equal opportunity to win this business from the city. This level of competition was exactly what was anticipated under deregulation in the state.
The bottom line is that for this contract, the city chose the firm that offered the lowest price. As such, I think it would be more appropriate to title your article "Business as Usual: City leverages the deregulated electric market to secure competitive pricing from the state."
Issa Z. Dadoush, director
Houston building services department
Editor's note: Dadoush's letter does not disagree that the Reliant/GLO team offered a lower price if there was a contract by April 16. We call it a discount, while he states that it was due to a "risk factor" that would have increased the price after April 16.
Regarding Reliant's role, the city's own bid tally sheets call the partnership "Reliant through the GLO." City Council minutes show Reliant VP David Roylance told councilmembers on April 13 that Reliant "was ultimately responsible for providing the service the General Land Office was going to provide" to the city.
As for the consultants' ratings of CNE's final proposal, documents released by the city show CNE earned 22 out of a possible 25 points, compared to 15 for Reliant/GLO, that CNE provided "most of the major contract terms sought" and that the price difference was insignificant, "so other factors are important."
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