City Hall Gall
Ban goofing off: I really enjoyed reading the feature "Parting Shots" [by Tim Fleck, May 15] about Mayor Brown.
My impression of Brown is that he does not work hard, so his staff does not work hard.
The article educated me as to Brown's inability to make tough decisions and his delegating of responsibility to department heads whom he trusts to do a good job, with no accountability to him. It also pointed out that Brown does not have the political skills to persuade City Council as Bob Lanier did.
In the future, we need a mayor who is a good administrator and who shows by example a desire to improve the city with good hardworking people who watch our dollars and do a day's work for a day's pay. No goofing off by any city employee will be allowed.
Better with Brown: I'm not sure what you have against Mayor Brown personally, but your dislike was more than evident in your recent Houston Press article. I can't speak to all of the mayor's successes or failures, as I don't follow politics very closely, but I can offer a brief perspective from a non-native Houstonian.
I moved to Houston in 1996 fresh out of Florida A&M University, virtually sight unseen. I had visited Houston only once for a one-day interview before I decided to make it my home. Within 18 months I could take no more and moved to Atlanta. At that time, Houston seemed to be one of the deadest, least interesting, least developed, least diverse "major" cities I had ever been to. Downtown nightlife was nonexistent, nothing was being built, and the whole city was just outright boring to me. The good ol' (cow)boy persona seemed to rule the city.
Were it not for my wife wanting to move back here to be closer to her family, I would have fulfilled my vow to never return to Houston or Texas. Fast-forward to today and I can see a city thriving, growing not just in population, but in culture, industry and plain old brick and mortar. As you should know, with growth come growing pains (e.g., your city streets issue). I can't go as far as saying Mayor Brown deserves all of the credit, but he has been the man in office during this resurgence. I still don't see Houston in the same light as Atlanta, Miami or D.C., but I appreciate what the city has become. I'm not so eager to move now.
You seem to blame the mayor for the city's deficiencies, while giving minimal credit for what he has accomplished. Maybe there is a personal issue at play; I have no idea. But honestly ask yourself, Is Houston, as a whole, better or worse off than it was when Mayor Brown first took the job?
Personal issues aside, how could you not say better?
M. Angelo Pettis
Abandon downtown: I just finished reading your article on our lame-duck mayor. Thank you for a most insightful tour de force through Hizzonor's administration. It has added depth to my understanding of Mr. Brown's rise and Mayor Bob's selection of him as his successor. I have always said that Lanier's reason for picking Brown was to have someone (weak) in that position so that the downtown cabal of good ol' boys could continue to run things as they saw fit. Brown has fit that description perfectly.
It was the cabal (not the people) that decided we needed a new baseball stadium and a new basketball arena -- and that they needed to be downtown, where the cabal stood to profit at taxpayers' expense.
The problem with the administration's vision is much more fundamental. The entire justification for revitalizing downtown is based on an erroneous premise, because downtowns are a relic of second-wave capitalism (read: 19th century). Why is it that no one even asks why downtowns are always in need of revitalization in the first place?
A majority of Houstonians hate going downtown, yet that's where the new stadiums are. Is it even desirable to continue to fight the exodus from the cities? For most of us who have voted with our feet, the answer is a resounding no!
We see Brown as a figurehead (and your article validates it), a man who has always abdicated his responsibility. As an expatriate African-American Houstonian, I say the more a city's demographic comes to resemble that of a third-world country, the more its government will.
A public service: I read your "Dead Wrong" piece [by Wendy Grossman, April 10] and became concerned because my parents are buried in Hollywood Cemetery, and we have had problems similar to those you recounted. These problems were also "explained away" by the management.
You did a real public service with your article. I believe it is unlikely that most people knew, before reading it, how unregulated and unsupervised these places are.
Carol Lang Speed
Standing up to UST: Thank you for your story on the courageous Cauldron staff ["The Cauldron Bubbles Over," by Jennifer Mathieu, May 22]. I was editor of the paper three years ago (and a friend of Marsha's) and can tell you from experience that the kind of intimidation and pressure on Cauldron staffers described in your story is nothing new from University of St. Thomas officials. For years administrators have gone out of their way to try to keep important stories off the pages, not just by dodging phone calls and lying on the record, but through active intimidation and -- most despicably -- using and bullying student leaders to cover their own tracks.
Year after year the Cauldron reporters have resisted administration attempts to turn their paper into a PR rag for the university, largely because of the influence of Nicole Casarez. During my tenure, she backed tough editorial decisions I made, but most important, she let me make them on my own. Her confidence in the student reporters she teaches breeds confidence in ourselves and our work. Even when I felt like I didn't have a friend on campus, I knew I was doing the right thing.
My job was to write stories for students, and to give them a voice. Looking back, I wouldn't change a word I wrote (except for the names I misspelled). I'm proud of the tradition of tough reporting that continues. As for "ruining Marsha's memory," as Jack cowardly put it, she would have gotten such a kick out of all this. I'm glad to be reminded (by your article) of her fierce belief in justice and truth. Thank you again for your article.
Tackle the Times
Who cares? If the worst example of editorial sloppiness that Richard Connelly [News Hostage, May 8] can find in the Chronicle is an inconsistent reference to where Willie Nelson was born, he has too much time on his hands. I'm sure that Michael Clark is considering tendering his resignation for mistaking the fact [in his readers' quiz on Nelson] that Willie was raised, but not born, in Fort Worth.
My suggestion would be for Connelly to spend his resources examining The New York Times, since it apparently has much looser journalistic standards than the Chronicle.
Pan the play: If Lee Williams thinks that the overdone (especially Charlie Scott's performance), grating, sappy Meat/BAR ["Beer Nuts," May 15] is "character-driven and full of some of the best dialogue on any stage this year," then this must have been one shitty year for stage productions.
The only thing that made this show bearable was the acting of Winscott, Bowers and Schulze. Otherwise, I couldn't wait to get out of there, especially after hearing a monologue in which one actor actually said, "We talked about the world we live in." Who the fuck says that?
We got good art: I read your article with great pleasure ["The Center of the Universe," by Kelly Klaasmeyer, May 22]. I moved from New York to Houston last year to (commercially) promote art and artists in this exciting city. It's great to see growing recognition for Houston's art scene both locally and nationally. I look forward to more art-oriented articles in the Press.
Matthew X. Kiernan, director
Matthew Travis Gallery
Saleen right along: I appreciated the review of the new film Bruce Almighty ["Power Play," by Bill Gallo, May 22]. Gallo's article was inspired by, from what I could tell from the trailer, a movie that will rival all of the other so-called man-versus-God flicks with ease.
And I also wanted to say that I appreciate the Houston Press. After spending exactly one year in Seattle, and faithfully reading that city's alternative newspaper, I felt it was nice to return to Houston and have a basis for comparison in the Press.
But the main reason I'm writing is because of a couple of minor issues I have with the review. I would like to have seen something on one of the writers, Steve Oedekerk, the man responsible for the brilliant piece of kung fu spoofery Kung Pao, Enter the Fist.
And for the record, Gallo mentions a $100,000 Italian "sports" car that is actually a $375,000 American-made super car, the Saleen S7. It is a work of art itself.
Other than that, Bill, keep up the good writing, and thank you for not divulging too much more than we would have seen in the preview.
Name withheld by request
Wrong region: When you call Adoor Gopalakrishnan one of the world's great directors, your readers might expect that you have a modicum of knowledge about what you're talking about ["Hooray for Bollywood," Urban Experience, by Troy Schulze, May 8].
Mr. Gopalakrishnan's films can hardly be called "Bollywood" films -- his films originate in Kerala (not Bombay) and are not in Hindi (the language of Bollywood films). He has no connection with Bollywood, but by your assertion you have managed to slight not only him but a whole regional cinema.
F.Co fan: If you're going to appear somewhat credible in your attack of F.Co's King of Texas release [Local Rotation, by William Michael Smith, May 22], at least know that it's Ryan Mucha, not Brian. Have you even been to one of F.Co's live shows, or did you just listen to the CD in order to formulate your opinions, while blindly offering up some obtuse comparisons? Get real.
It's time to recognize that Texas music is here to stay, and has some great original stories and ideas coming out of it. It's also time to start promoting these performers and their music, and not just look down upon them with such arrogance.
Right on: I appreciate a music critic who can differentiate between real Texas music and the schmaltz put out by the record and radio companies to appeal to the lowest common denominator of musical taste. Thanks, Mike, for an honest review.
Right and left: Jim Stevens's remark of the Libertarian Party as "right-wing" in the April 24 edition is horribly off the mark [Letters, "Taking Aim"].
Regarding social policies, Libertarians believe people have the ability to make their own life choices, and to bear the consequences of those choices. For women, in particular, this means reproductive freedom. Libertarians also support your right to ingest what substances you choose, and we support ending the racist, costly and ineffective war on drugs. In this regard, the LP aligns more closely with the liberals than with the conservatives.
Libertarians are not traditionalists regarding fiscal policies, either, a quality that is a centerpiece of "right-wing" or conservative thought.
More information about libertarianism is available at the national LP Web site, www.lp.org.
Monica Granger, president
College Libertarians at UH
Stop the stereotyping: Where does Jim Stevens get his information? My friends and colleagues who have participated in peace demonstrations are not at all like his idea. Rather, they are business owners, professionals, managers and retired citizens who are American all the way. They are disturbed by the timing and the purported purpose of the made-for-TV war, where truth was the first victim.
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We had been led to believe that our troops would be gassed, that they would find huge caches of horrible weapons, that soldiers would be met with open arms by a grateful Arab citizenry, that democracy would spring up from the remnants of the invasion.
Some of our top officials feel they are absolutely right, even being sent by God to carry out a mission. As for guns, Mr. Stevens has a safe Anglo name, but pity the owner with a "foreign" name or associations or one who encounters a Justice Department zealot -- that gun and freedom can vanish.
Let's stop the 1960s stereotyping and paranoia. We should focus on taking care of our own people and their needs first. It is vital that we watch for manipulations and changing "truths" that serve a secret agenda. Democracy relies on accurate information and intelligent use of it by the citizens. Sharing different opinions is just one step.
Name withheld by request